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Full text of "Surface management regulations for locatable mineral operations (43 CFR 3809) : final environmental impact statement v. 1"

BLM LIBRARY 




88052110 






Environmental Impact Statement • VOLUME 1 




U.S. Department of the Interior • Bureau of Land Management 



w 



The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for the balanced management of the public lands and 
resources and their various values so that they are considered in a combination that will best serve the needs of the 
American people. Management is based upon the principles of multiple use and sustained yield; a combination of 
uses that take into account the long term needs of future generations for renewable and nonrenewable resources. 
These resources include recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, fish and wildlife, wilderness and natural, 
scenic, scientific and cultural values. 



BLM/WO/PL-00/003+3041 



fr- 




United States Department of the Interior 

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT 

Washington, D.C. 20240 

http://www.blm.gov 



Dear Reader: 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pleased to present the final environmental impact statement 
(EIS) on Surface Management Regulations for Locatable Mineral Operations (43 CFR 3809). This EIS 
analyzes the impacts of five possible regulatory frameworks: Alternative 1 - maintaining the existing 
regulations (No Action), Alternative 2 - having the states manage the program within their respective 
borders, Alternative 3 - adopting proposed final regulations at 43 CFR subpart 3809 (Proposed Action), 
Alternative 4 - maximizing environmental protection, and Alternative 5 - adopting regulations solely to 
implement recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences - National Research Council report 
Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands. 

We encouraged public review and comment on the draft EIS and proposed regulations by distributing 
copies of both documents to Federal, State, local, and Native American governments and government 
agencies; Congressional offices; mining interests; environmental organizations; and citizens concerned 
with the BLM's surface management program for locatable mineral operations. We also made copies of 
the draft EIS and proposed regulations available at all BLM offices and posted the documents on the 
BLM homepage (http://www.blm.gov). In addition to accepting written comments, BLM conducted 29 
public hearings on the draft EIS and proposed regulations in 16 cities, receiving comments from more 
than 2,500 individuals and organizations. I am pleased with the level of the public's interest in this 
rulemaking and the extensive input we received. 

The Department of the Interior may decide to select any of the five alternatives presented for analysis. If 
Alternative 3 (proposed final regulations) is selected, the 3809 regulations that are adopted may differ 
slightly from the version analyzed in this EIS, depending on further examination of the administrative 
record. 

The EIS contains the following: 



A statement of the purpose and need for the proposed action 

A description of the five regulatory alternatives 

A description of the affected environment. 

An analysis of the environmental consequences 

Comments received on the draft EIS and BLM's responses 

Consultation, coordination, and public participation 

Other items required by the Council on Environmental Quality regulations 



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Director 




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BLM LIBRARY 

BLDG50, ST-150A 

DENVER FEDERAL CENTER 

P.O. BOX 25047 
DENVER, COLORADO 80225 



Surface Management Regulations 2 

for Locatable Mineral Operations T 



(43 (FB MOt) 



Final Environmental Impact Statement 



Prepared by 

U.S. Department of the Interior 

Bureau of Land Management 



Washington, D.C 
October 2000 



Surface Management Regulations for Locatable Mineral Operations (43 CFR Mj 

Environmental Impact Statement 

Draft ( ) Final (X) 

The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 

1. Type of Action: Administrative (X) Legislative ( ) 

Abstract: BLM is proposing to change the regulations in 43 CFR subpart 3809 for its program 
to manage operations conducted under the General Mining Law of 1872, as amended, and section 302 
of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). This action is intended to 
modernize and improve the regulations, while increasing environmental protection and facilitating 
coordination and cooperation with state regulatory agencies having a role in mine permitting. 

This final environmental impact statement (EIS) is a national-level, programmatic EIS. It documents 
the economic, social, environmental, and ecological impacts that would result from alternative 
frameworks for the BLM surface management program regulating locatable mineral operations on 
public lands. The Proposed Action is to adopt the recently proposed regulations at 43 CR 3809. Other 
program alternatives analyzed in this EIS include the following: maintaining the existing regulations 
(No Action), allowing each state to regulate locatable mineral operations on public lands within its 
borders (State Management), adopting regulations that maximize environmental protection while still 
allowing locatable mineral activities (Maximum Protection), and adopting the recommendations of the 
National Research Council report Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands (NRC Recommendations). 

For further information contact: 

On final EIS: On final proposed regulations: 

Paul McNutt Michael Schwartz 

Bureau of Land Management Bureau of Land Management 

(775) 861-6604 (202) 452-5198 

pmcnutt@blm.gov mschwartz@blm.gov 



Contents 



VOLUME 1 

List of Tables iii 

List of Figures iv 

Summary 1 

Chapter 1: Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 11 

Purpose of and Need for Action 11 

The Regulation Development and EIS Processes 13 

BLM Authority and Responsibilities 13 

Cooperating Agencies 14 

Development of the Mining Law and Mineral Policies 14 

History of the Surface Management Regulations 17 

Recent Studies and Changes to the Surface Management Program 17 

Scoping 18 

Issues and Concerns 19 

Issues and Concerns Not Addressed 25 

Chapter 2: Proposed Action and Alternatives 29 

Significant Issues 29 

State-Federal Coordination 29 

Notice or Plan of Operations (Plan) Threshold 30 

Performance Standards 30 

Financial Assurance (Bonding) 31 

Enforcement and Penalties 32 

NRC Report Consistency 33 

Regulations Common to All Alternatives 33 

Description of the Alternatives 34 

Alternative 1: Existing Regulations (No Action) 35 

Alternative 2: State Management 43 

Alternative 3: Proposed Regulations (Proposed Action and Preferred Alternative) 46 

Alternative 4: Maximum Protection, Designed-Based Regulations 55 

Alternative 5: NRC Recommendations 60 

Implementation Costs 64 

Alternatives Considered but Eliminated from Detailed Analysis 66 

National Research Council Consistency 67 

Preferred Alternative 68 

Summary Tables 68 

Chapter 3: Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 123 

Introduction 123 

Assumptions for Analysis 125 

Cumulative Effects 127 

Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitment of Resources 128 



Environmental Justice 128 

Mineral Resource Development 128 

Hazardous Materials and Waste Management 152 

Climate 156 

Air Quality 157 

Water Resources 162 

Soils 181 

Vegetation 185 

Riparian- Wetland Resources 194 

Aquatic Resources 205 

Wildlife Resources 218 

Wild Horses and Burros 233 

Livestock Grazing 234 

Special Status Areas 235 

Recreation 238 

Visual Resources 243 

Cave Resources 247 

Paleontological Resources 249 

Cultural Resources 250 

American Indian Resource Concerns 255 

Social Conditions 259 

Economic Conditions 265 

Chapter 4: Consultation, Coordination, Publication Participation, and Preparers 299 

Consultation and Coordination 299 

Public Participation 300 

Distribution 302 

Other Actions 303 

List of Preparers 304 

Contributors 307 

Regulation Team 309 

Appendixes A-l 

Appendix A — Existing 3809 Regulations A-2 

Appendix B — List of People and Organizations to which the Final EIS Is Being Sent A-19 

Appendix C — Other Applicable Requirements A-38 

Appendix D — State Mining Surface Protection Programs A-51 

Appendix E — Changes in Mineral Activities A- 123 

Appendix F — Plant and Animal Lists A-223 

Appendix G — Economics A-245 

Glossary G-l 

References R-l 

Index 1-1 



List of Abbreviations inside back cover 

Comments and Responses Volume 2 



List of Tables 



2-1 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 69 

2-2 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 88 

2-3 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 105 

3-1 Distribution of BLM- Administered Public Land, Stock Raising Homestead Act 

Acreage, and Total State Acreage 124 

3-2 Notice-Level Activity 136 

3-3 Plan-Level Activity 136 

3-4 Percentage Distribution of 1997 Notices and Plans by Type of Activity 136 

3-5 Total 1997 Plans and Notices in Study Area 137 

3-6 Notices of Noncompliance 137 

3-7 Acres Disturbed under Alternative 1 140 

3-8 Notice- and Plan-Level Operations over a 20- Year Period under Alternative 1 141 

3-9 Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 2 142 

3-10 Number of Operations under Alternative 2 over a 20-year Period 142 

3-11 Acres Disturbed under Alternative 2 142 

3-12 Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 3 145 

3-13 Number of Mineral Operations under Alternative 3 over a 20- Year Period 145 

3-14 Acres Disturbed under Alternative 3 146 

3-15 Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 4 148 

3-16 Number of Mineral Operations under Alternative 4 over a 20- Year Period 148 

3-17 Acres Disturbed under Alternative 4 149 

3-18 Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 5 150 

3-19 Number of Mineral Operations under Alternative 5 over a 20- Year Period 151 

3-20 Acres Disturbed under Alternative 5 151 

3-21 Outline for Emergency Response Plan 153 

3-22 National Ambient Air Quality Standards and Prevention of Significant 

Deterioration Increments (g/m3) 158 

3-23 Condition of BLM-Managed Riparian- Wetland Areas by State 195 

3-24 BLM-Managed Fisheries Habitat by State 205 

3-25 BLM Aquatic Habitat under or Proposed for Special Status 206 

3-26 Numbers of Federally Endangered, Threatened, and Proposed Species on 

BLM-Managed Lands 222 

3-27 Acres of Public Land Open to Location under the Mining Law, and Number 

of Species on Public Land Protected by the Endangered Species Act 223 

3-28 Designated Nationally Significant Cultural Resource Areas 251 

3-29 Value of Nonfuel Mineral Production 1980-1998 267 

3-30 Estimated Value of "Locatable-type" Nonfuel Mineral Production, Total Value of 

Nonfuel Mineral Production- 1998 267 



3-31 Value of Locatable Mineral Production Originating from Federal Lands 1998 268 

3-32 Ranking of Western States by Mine Production of Mineral Commodities - 1998 269 

3-33 Precious Metals Value of Production 1998 270 

3-34 Base Metal Value of Production 1998 274 

3-35 Estimated Regional Impacts from Production of Locatable Minerals on 

Public Lands 1998 280 

3-36 Expenditures for Wildlife-Related Recreation in Study Area 1996 283 

3-37 Alternative 2 (State Management) Estimated Total Regional Economic 

Activity from Production of Locatable Minerals on Federal Lands 286 

3-38 Alternative 3 (Proposed Action) Estimated Total Regional Economic 

Activity from Production of Locatable Minerals on Federal Lands 290 

3-39 Alternative 4 (Maximum Protection) Estimated Total Regional Economic 

Activity from Production of Locatable Minerals on Public Lands 294 

3-40 Alternative 5 (NRC Recommendations) Estimated Total Regional Economic 

Activity from Production of Locatable Minerals on Public Lands 297 

4-1 Informational and Scoping Meetings for the Draft EIS 301 

4-2 Public Hearings on the Proposed Regulations and Draft EIS 302 



List of Figures 



3-1 Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Class I Areas 160 

3-2 Ground Water Regions Delineated by Heath (1984) 163 

3-3 Western States Contribution to U.S. Mine Production of Locatable-Type 

Minerals in Relation to Land Base - 1998 266 

3-4 U.S. Gold Production 1980-1999 271 

3-5 Average Gold Prices, 1980-1999 273 

3-6 U.S. Copper Production, 1980-1998 275 

3-7 National Defense Stockpile Sales and Acquisitions, 1991-1999 277 



IV 



Summary 



This final environmental impact statement 
(EIS) analyzes the Bureau of Land 
Management's (BLM) surface management 
program for locatable mineral operations on 
BLM-administered lands. The EIS analyzes the 
environmental impact of the existing 
regulations and alternatives for the relevant 
issues recognized during the scoping process. 

Purpose Of and Need 

The purpose of the Proposed Action is to 
adopt regulations that would address issues that 
have developed since BLM's surface 
management program for locatable mineral 
operations began in 1981 and to improve 
BLM's management of locatable mineral 
activities on the public lands. Issues of general 
concern include the following: 

• BLM's effectiveness and consistency in the 
day-to-day implementing of the regulations 
in the field. 

• Environmental protection requirements, 
including performance standards, bonding, 
and enforcement provisions. 

• Working relationships with state regulators in 
reducing or eliminating duplication of 
mining plan review, bonding, and permitting. 

• Public and stakeholder involvement in the 
review and approval processes. 

• Receiving market value for mining of 
minerals that may not be locatable under the 
mining laws but are common variety 
minerals. 

• The validity of mining claims within areas 
closed to mining. 

BLM Authority 

The General Mining Law of 1872, as 
amended, allows the location and use of 
mining claims on sites "...under such 
regulations prescribed by law," 30 U.S.C. 22, 
26 and 28. 



Section 302 of the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act (FLPMA) addresses the 
management of use, occupancy, and 
development of the public lands. Section 302(b) 
of FLPMA recognizes the entry and 
development rights of mining claimants while 
directing the Secretary of the Interior to "...by 
regulation or otherwise, take any action 
necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation of the lands." These requirements 
and other legislation authorize BLM to regulate 
mineral activities so as to prevent unnecessary 
or undue degradation. The 43 CFR 3809 
regulations (3809 regulations) have been 
prepared to meet that legislative intent. 

The 3809 regulations apply to lands that are 
open to exploration and development under the 
Mining Law. The regulatory framework is not 
to decide "if mining should be allowed but to 
regulate "how" activities already authorized by 
the Mining Law are to operate to prevent 
unnecessary or undue degradation. This 
framework gives BLM much discretion in 
regulating exploration and mining on public 
lands but less discretion in determining whether 
exploration and mining should occur. 

History of the Surface 

Management 

Regulations 

BLM adopted the 3809 regulations in 1981 
after completing a programmatic EIS (BLM 
1980). These regulations classify surface 
disturbance into three categories: casual use, 
Notices, and Plans of Operations. Casual use 
involves only negligible disturbance with hand 
tools and does not require the operator to notify 
BLM. 

Notice-level operations use mechanized 
earth-moving equipment and disturb 5 acres or 
less. Operators must submit Notices to BLM at 
least 15 calendar days before operations begin 



Summary 



to ensure that the activity does not cause 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

A Plan of Operations is required when 
mining or exploration would disturb more than 
5 acres or for any surface disturbance in BLM's 
special status areas. BLM must review and 
approve Plans of Operations before operations 
begin. Since approval of a Plan of Operations is 
a federal action, an environmental assessment 
(EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) 
must be prepared. 

Under the existing regulations reclamation 
bonding can be required only for Plan-level 
operations or for Notice-level operations if 
BLM has issued the operator a record of 
noncompliance. 

When the regulations were published in 
1981, BLM made a commitment to review their 
effectiveness after 3 years. In 1985 BLM 
formed a work group to consider changing the 
regulations for reclamation bonding. In 1989 
BLM began a initiative to change policy for 
cyanide use and compliance inspections in 
response to growing criticism of its managing 
of mining operations, particularly the issues of 
wildlife deaths, failure to perform reclamation, 
and residential occupancy not incident to 
mining. These issues were the subjects of 
reports prepared by the U.S. General 
Accounting Office (1986, 1987a,b, 1988, 1989, 
1990, 1991a). 

In 1992 a task force of BLM specialists 
collected public comments and recommended 
changes to the 3809 regulations (BLM 1992a). 
In 1993 this revision effort was put on hold 
because it appeared that pending changes in the 
Mining Law would supersede any changes in 
the surface management regulations. 

Although these initiatives did not lead to 
overall revision of the 3809 regulations, the 
surface management program has undergone 
several important policy changes since 1981. 
BLM developed a cyanide management policy 
in 1990 and adopted state-specific cyanide 
management plans to give guidance for 
managing cyanide use on public lands under the 
existing regulations. In 1992 the BLM Solid 
Minerals Reclamation Handbook (BLM 1992b) 
was completed as guidance on reclamation 



practices. In 1996 BLM issued an acid rock 
drainage policy and published the 43 CFR 3715 
regulations on occupancy of mining claims. 

In early 1997 BLM revised the 3809 
regulations for reclamation bonding, intending 
to address some of the problems of maintaining 
adequate reclamation bonds and improving 
enforcement. But the Northwest Mining 
Association challenged the 1997 regulations in 
court for BLM's failure to follow the 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
in assessing the effects on small entities. In 
May 1998 the District Court ruled against 
BLM, and the 1997 regulation revision is no 
longer in effect {Northwest Mining Association 
v. Babbitt, No. 97-1013, D.D.C., May 13, 
1998). 

In February 1999 BLM published the 
proposed 3809 regulations and draft EIS (BLM 
1999b) for public comment. Later that year the 
National Research Council completed a report 
(NRC 1999) under the direction of Congress to 
assess the adequacy of the existing regulatory 
framework for hardrock mining on public lands. 

Consultation, 
Coordination, and 
Public Participation 

Consultation and 
Coordination 

No cooperating or joint lead agencies 
participated in preparing this EIS. We 
coordinated with state governments, state 
regulatory agencies, American Indian tribal 
governments, and other federal agencies, 
including the Environmental Protection Agency, 
Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian 
Affairs, in developing the proposed regulations 
and preparing the draft and final EISs. 

In his January 6, 1997 memorandum 
directing BLM to start the rulemaking process, 
the Secretary of the Interior directed that 
"Coordination with state regulatory programs 
should be carefully addressed, to ensure that 



Summary 



Federal Land Policy and Management Act's 
purpose of avoiding unnecessary or undue 
degradation is achieved, while minimizing 
duplication and promoting cooperation among 
regulators." 

We started working closely with the 
governors and state agencies of the "Mining 
Law" states before issuing the Notice of Intent 
to Prepare an EIS and continued this 
consultation through the issuance of the Notice 
of Availability for the final EIS. The importance 
of this consultation and coordination was 
reiterated in the 1998 Interior Appropriations 
Act, which directed the Secretary of the Interior 
to certify that he had consulted with the 
affected states. On April 8, 1997, March 3, 
1998, and again on September 22, 1998, we 
participated in meetings hosted by the Western 
Governors' Association. These meetings 
focused on concerns about concepts and 
provisions in the proposed regulations. We also 
solicited written comments on the drafts of the 
proposed regulations from the states. 

To obtain input from American Indians, we 
consulted and coordinated with the Bureau of 
Indian Affairs, the Native American Indian 
Congress, and tribal governments. We 
distributed preliminary draft regulations to 
potentially affected tribal governments and held 
an information briefing/public meeting on the 
Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana. In 
addition, we solicited written comments on the 
draft EIS and proposed regulations from all 
federally recognized tribal governments. 

While developing the proposed regulations 
and preparing the draft EIS, we consulted 
informally with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service and U.S. National Marine Fisheries 
Service on the proposed regulations. In revising 
the proposed regulations and preparing the final 
EIS, we prepared a biological assessment of the 
proposed rules. 

Public Participation 

In January 1997 the Secretary of the 
Interior directed BLM to continue with the 
regulation review process promised in 1981 and 
begun in 1991. Because of the time that had 



passed since the 1991 effort, we started a new 
public participation process in early 1997 and 
requested comments from its field offices on 
the existing regulations and suggestions for 
improvement. We encouraged public 
participation by the following actions: 

• Prescoping outreach to special interest groups 
and government officials. 

• Scoping for the EIS, including a formal 81- 
day comment period and 19 public meetings 
in 12 cities. 

• Placing the proposed regulations, draft EIS, 
and related documents on BLM's Internet 
web site. 

• Two public comment periods for the EIS and 
proposed 43 CFR 3809 regulations, including 
29 public hearings in 16 cities. 

We analyzed the information gathered 
during the prescoping outreach and public 
scoping process and used it to determine the 
issues addressed and alternatives presented in 
detail in the draft EIS. 

The proposed regulations and draft EIS 
were subject to public review and comment 
during two public comment periods. The first 
period ran from February 9, 1999 to May 10, 
1999. Starting on March 23, 2000, we held 29 
public hearings in 1 6 cities on the proposed 
regulations and draft EIS. In addition to public 
hearing transcripts, we received more than 
2,100 comment letters, including email. After 
the close of the first comment period we 
released to the public a content analysis report 
(BLM 1999c) summarizing the public 
comments. 

On September 29, 1999, the National 
Research Council (NRC) released its report 
Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands (NCR 
1999), which assessed the adequacy of the 
existing federal/state regulatory program. As 
directed by Congress, we allowed for a 1 20-day 
comment period and requested more public 
input on the proposed regulations in 
relationship to the NRC recommendations. 

This comment period ran from October 26, 
1999 to January 24, 2000, during which we 
received more than 400 comment letters. 



Summary 



Following this second comment period, we 
revised the proposed regulations and prepared 
the final EIS. The final EIS responded to all 
substantive comments from both comment 
periods and incorporated changes in response to 
those comments. 

We have encouraged public involvement 
throughout the process to ensure that the 
process is open and that we have considered 
information from all interested parties, 
including the following: 

• Other federal agencies. 

• State and local governments. 

• American Indian tribal governments. 

• The scientific community. 

• Professional, conservation, and trade 
organizations. 

• Public land users and stakeholders. 

• Citizens at large. 

One of the efforts to increase information to 
the public was to post the proposed regulations, 
draft EIS, other documents, announcements, 
and schedules on BLM's Internet web site. The 
web site was updated regularly to give users the 
latest information on working drafts of the 
regulations, schedules, and other information on 
the project. As of July 31, 2000, the Internet 
web site had had more than 25,000 visits. 

The Regulation 
Development and EIS 
Process 

Revision of the 3809 regulations is 
proceeding under Section 553 of the 
Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 
553. BLM has determined that the proposed 
changes constitute a major federal action 
significantly affecting the human environment. 
Therefore, under the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) an EIS must be 
prepared. 

We have combined the rulemaking and EIS 
processes wherever possible to eliminate 
duplication. We held concurrent comment 



periods, including public hearings on the draft 
EIS and the proposed regulations, to solicit 
public comments in accord with the 
requirements of APA and NEPA. 

The EIS is not itself a decision document 
but a document to help decision makers by 
disclosing the environmental consequences of 
implementing the Proposed Action and 
alternatives. No sooner than 30-days after this 
final EIS is published, BLM will issue a record 
of decision selecting an alternative for 
implementation. This record of decision will 
most likely be incorporated within the preamble 
to the final regulations. The record of decision 
will not contain site-specific decisions for any 
mining proposals. BLM will make future 
decisions on mining proposals on a case-by- 
case basis under the regulations. 

Issues 

The scoping effort helped us determine the 
issues we needed to consider in the rulemaking 
and EIS processes. These issues include the 
following: 



Definition of unnecessary or undue 

degradation. 

Performance standards for mining and 

reclamation. 

Definition of federal lands. 

The threshold for a Notice or Plan of 

Operations. 

Definition of casual use. 

Notice and Plan of Operations processing and 

contents. 

State government coordination. 

Claim validity and valid existing rights. 

Common variety minerals. 

Inspection and monitoring programs. 

Type and adequacy of penalties for 

noncompliance. 

Reclamation bonding requirements. 

Plan modifications. 

Temporary or permanent closure. 

Appeals process. 

Definition of project area. 

Existing operations. 



Summary 



The following issues were raised but are not 
within the scope of the 3809 regulations. We 
therefore did not specifically address them 
through this rulemaking process or use them to 
develop alternatives in the EIS. 

The 1872 Mining Law. 

American Indian trust responsibilities. 

Citizen suits. 

BLM cost recovery. 

Agency funding and staffing. 

NEPA processing of Plans of Operations. 

Abandoned mine lands. 

Diligent development. 

Recreational mining. 

Public availability of information. 

Combining the 3809 regulations with 

occupancy regulations. 

• Consistency with the U.S. Forest Service 
regulations. 

Developing the Alternatives 

The purpose of the alternatives is to allow 
the decision maker to consider ways to address 
and resolve issues recognized during the 
scoping process or raised during the public 
comment period. The resolving of significant 
issues forms the framework of an alternative, 
with the resolving of lesser issues included 
around the alternative's central theme. The 
development of alternatives centered on 
addressing regulatory issues in six general 
areas: 

• Coordination between BLM and state 
regulatory agencies. 

• The Notice-Plan of Operations threshold. 

• Defining performance standards. 

• Financial assurance for reclamation. 

• Regulation enforcement and penalties for 
noncompliance. 

• Consistency with the NRC report. 

Although we considered other relevant 
issues, these six issues played a major role in 
defining the alternatives to be analyzed in 
detail. 



State-Federal Coordination - A significant 
issue consists of maintaining and improving 
coordination between the states and BLM and 
of determining the relative level of 
responsibility for regulating mineral exploration 
and development. Alternatives developed to 
address this issue range from turning the 
program entirely over to state regulation to 
having BLM always assume the lead role for 
regulating activities on public lands. 

Notice or Plan of Operations Threshold - 
Under the existing regulations, a Notice is 
required for surface disturbance of 5 acres or 
less, whereas a Plan of Operations is required 
for disturbance of more than 5 acres, or 
disturbance of any size exceeding casual use in 
special status areas. BLM received a wide range 
of comments on this threshold. Some wanted 
the threshold left as it currently is. Others 
believed that the requirements to file a Notice 
or Plan duplicated the filing requirements under 
state regulatory programs and were not needed. 
Alternatives 3 and 5 maintain the Notice 
provision, but change the threshold from 5 acres 
of surface disturbance to a criterion based on 
mining versus exploration. 

This approach responds to the comments 
that the Notice or Plan threshold should be 
driven mainly by the type of activity, not 
necessarily acres disturbed. Special status areas, 
where a Plan of Operations is always required, 
have been expanded under Alternative 3 to 
address comments that sensitive lands and 
resources need increased protection. Some 
commenters were concerned that allowing 
operations under Notices would never be 
suitable because no National Environmental 
Policy Act review or opportunity for public 
involvement would be required. 

Performance Standards - An important 
aspect of the 3809 regulations consists of the 
standards that govern how operators must 
control the extent of impacts on the ground. 
Alternatives were developed to address 
comments on the following: 

• The environmental resources for which 
standards should be developed. 

• Whether those standards should be design or 
outcome oriented. 



Summary 



• The level of environmental protection the 
standards should provide. 

Every alternative includes compliance with 
other state or federal laws and regulations as a 
minimum performance standard. Federal 
environmental statutes are summarized in 
Appendix C, and state regulatory programs are 
summarized in Appendix D of the EIS. 

Financial Assurance (Bonding) - Many 
commented on the adequacy of financial 
assurance requirements-generally referred to as 
bonding-and what these requirements should 
cover. Typically, bonding is required as a 
compliance tool to ensure that disturbed land is 
reclaimed should the operator be unable or 
unwilling to do so. With the recent district court 
case on BLM's 1997 bonding regulations, and 
the NRC report, the issue of reclamation 
bonding is even more relevant today than when 
the regulation revision process began. We have 
developed alternatives for addressing the issue 
of bonding in response to comments. 

Enforcement and Penalties - We received 
many comments on enforcement and penalties. 
The enforcement provisions in the alternatives 
range from maintaining the existing system to 
establishing mandatory administrative penalties 
and permit blocks for noncompliance. The 
range of alternatives we developed for 
enforcement and penalties respond to comments 
that assert that enforcement is not a large 
problem to comments that assert that existing 
enforcement programs are not strong enough. 
Alternative 5 limits the regulation changes to 
those recommended in the NRC report. 

NRC Report Consistency 

The National Research Council evaluated 
the adequacy of the existing 3809 regulatory 
framework. The NRC (1999) report Hardrock 
Mining on Federal Lands contains both 
regulatory and nonregulatory recommendations 
for changes in the existing program. The report 
concluded that improved implementation of the 
existing regulations presents the greatest 
opportunity for improved environmental 



protection and the efficiency of the regulatory 
process. The NRC report then listed gaps in the 
existing regulations and recommended 
regulatory and nonregulatory changes to the 
program. 

After the release of the report, Congress 
directed that BLM could spend funds only to 
finalize the proposed 3809 regulations during 
fiscal year 2000, and that the final regulations 
could not be inconsistent with the 
recommendations in the NRC report. BLM 
considers this requirement as prohibiting the 
agency from selecting a final regulation 
alternative that would contradict or oppose a 
NRC recommendation. Where NRC is silent on 
an aspect of the existing regulations, BLM- 
proposed changes would not be inconsistent 
with any NRC recommendations. In response to 
this requirement, we have modified Alternative 
3, the proposed regulations, so as not to be 
inconsistent with the NRC recommendations. 

Others have commented that the 
congressional requirement allows BLM to make 
only the regulation changes that NRC 
specifically recommended and that any change 
in the regulations outside those recommended 
would be inconsistent with the NRC report. We 
developed Alternative 5 to address this view. 
Table 2-2 in Chapter 2 of the EIS summarizes 
the regulatory recommendations in the NRC 
report. 

Alternative 1 , retaining the existing 
regulations, would be inconsistent with the 
NRC recommendations but would not conflict 
with congressional requirements because 
Congress did not require BLM to change the 
regulations. Congress required only that should 
BLM make changes, they not be inconsistent 
with NRC's recommendations. 

Alternative 2 would be inconsistent with the 
NRC recommendations since it would lessen 
many of the filing, bonding, and operating 
requirements in direct contradiction to many 
NRC recommendations. 

Alternative 4 is also inconsistent with the 
NRC recommendations. Eliminating Notice 
provisions and applying design-based 
performance standards would impose 



Summary 



requirements much greater than those 
recommended by NRC as needed to protect the 
public lands. 

Although Alternatives 1 , 2, and 4 are not 
consistent with the NRC recommendations, 
they remain feasible alternatives. They address 
program issues recognized by the public and 
could still be selected for implementation if the 
congressionaJ limitations on contents of the 
final regulations were lifted or expired. 

Description of the 
Alternatives 

This EIS considers five alternatives, 
including the Proposed Action and the No 
Action alternatives. Table 2-1 in Chapter 2 of 
the EIS summarizes each of the components of 
the five alternatives. 

Alternative 1: Existing 
Regulations (No Action) 

Under Alternative 1 the existing surface 
management regulations at 43 CFR 3809 would 
continue to be used, and no changes would be 
made. These are essentially the same 
regulations that have been in effect since 1981. 
Over the years BLM has developed policy 
documents, manuals, and handbooks that give 
guidance on how the regulations are to be 
implemented. Appendix A of the EIS contains 
the existing 3809 regulations. 

Alternative 2: State 
Management 

Under Alternative 2 BLM would defer 
regulating exploration and mining to the states 
and other federal agencies. The regulations 
would define unnecessary or undue 
degradation to mean failure to meet all local, 
state, and federal laws and regulations for 
conducting exploration and mining. BLM 
would not approve of any specific project. Nor 
would BLM prepare any NEPA documentation 



or engage in any consultation under Section 
106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. 
The operations would still have to comply 
with federal laws such as the Clean Water Act 
and Endangered Species Act, but BLM would 
not regulate the operations. In accordance with 
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, 
BLM would continue to prepare land use plans 
to determine areas to be opened or closed to 
operations under the Mining Law through the 
withdrawal process. State regulators could also 
use land use plans for information on special 
management concerns in areas open to 
operations. BLM would continue to process 
mineral withdrawals and examine mining 
claims for validity to meet its land management 
objectives. But BLM would not be involved in 
the day-to-day regulation of mineral operations. 

Alternative 3: Proposed 
Action (Preferred 
Alternative) 

Alternative 3 constitutes BLM's preferred 
alternative, and the proposed regulations would 
replace the existing regulations at 43 CFR 
3809. The regulations have been changed from 
those presented in the draft EIS in response to 
public comments and so as not to be 
inconsistent with the NRC report. 

Major provisions of the proposed 
regulations would include the following: 

• Selecting performance standards that all 
operations would have to meet for 
environmental protection. 

• Replacing the "prudent operator" standard in 
the current definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation with a requirement to 
comply with the performance standards. 

• Redefining unnecessary or undue degradation 
to include: "...conditions, activities, or 
practices that... result in substantial irreparable 
harm to significant scientific, cultural, or 
environmental resource values of the public 
lands that cannot be effectively mitigated." 



Summary 



• Adjusting the "threshold" for casual use, 
Notice-level operations, and filing Plans of 
Operations. 

• Increasing the bonding coverage to include 
Notice-level activity and requiring bonding at 
100% of reclamation costs. 

• Extending the regulations to cover federal 
minerals under private lands, including Stock 
Raising Homestead Act lands. 

• Increasing inspections under some 
circumstances. 

• Being able to issue administrative penalties. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Under Alternative 4 the 3809 regulations 
would contain prescriptive design requirements 
for resource protection. These requirements 
would increase the level of environmental 
protection and give BLM more discretion in 
determining the acceptability of proposed 
operations. Major changes from the current 
regulations under Alternative 4 include the 
following: 

• Expanded application to public lands with any 
mineral or surface interest. 

• Numerical performance standards for mineral 
operations. 

• Required pit backfilling. 

• Eliminating Notices so that all disturbances 
greater than casual use would require Plans of 
Operations. 

• Required conformance with land use plans. 

• Prohibitions against causing irreparable harm 
or having to permanently treat water. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Alternative 5 would change the existing 
regulations only where recommended by the 
NRC (1999) report. Major provisions of this 
alternative would include the following: 

• Adjusting the threshold for Notice-level 
operations and filing Plans of Operations. 



• Increasing bonding coverage to include 
Notice-level activity and requiring bonding at 
100% of reclamation costs. 

• Gaining the discretion to issue administrative 
penalties. 

Summary of Impacts 

Table 2-3 in Chapter 2 of the EIS 
summarizes the environmental, social, and 
economic impacts of each alternative. 

Alternative 1: Existing 
Regulations (No Action) 

Continuing current management would 
affect environmental conditions, the mining 
industry, and communities in the same ways as 
in the past. Mining is expected to remain 
relatively steady, depending mainly on 
conditions in commodity markets. Mining- 
related impacts to water and air quality, soil, 
vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, riparian-wetlands 
areas, and other resources are expected to 
continue at current rates. Economic activity is 
also expected to continue at current rates, 
depending on market conditions. Social 
conditions would not appreciably change. 

Alternative 2: State 
Management 

Impacts under the State Management 
Alternative would be similar to those under 
Alternative 1. Change in overall mining in the 
EIS study area is expected range from no 
change to an increase by as much as 5%, 
although not necessarily in all locations. For 
example, activity might not change in 
California, Montana, and Washington because 
these states have environmental review 
provisions similar to the federal National 
Environmental Policy Act requirements. A 
change in mining-related impacts to water and 
air quality, soil, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, 
riparian-wetland areas, and other resources is 
expected to be proportionate with the change in 
mineral activity. Change in mining-related 



Summary 



economic activity would range from no change 
to an increase of as much as 5%. 

Alternative 3: Proposed 
Action (Preferred 
Alternative) 

Under the Proposed Action mining is 
expected to decrease for all types and sizes of 
operations. The following main provisions of 
the new regulations would affect mining: 

• Including a substantial irreparable harm 
provision to the definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 

• Establishing performance standards. 

• Changing the threshold for casual use and 
Notice and Plan-level operations. 

• Increasing bonding levels. 

• Eliminating the future use of corporate 
guarantees. 

Mining-related impacts to water and air 
quality, soil, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, 
riparian- wetlands areas, and other resources are 
expected to decrease proportionately. Overall, 
mining-related economic activity would 
decrease by 10% to 28%. Mineral activity 
might not decrease uniformly in all states 
because of differences in state regulations and 
the type of mineral activity prevalent within the 
state. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would provide the most 
environmental protection of the five 
alternatives. It also has the potential to create 
the largest decrease in overall mineral activity 
of all alternatives, ranging from 45% to 69%. 
Open pit mining is expected to decrease the 
most-50% to 75%. Strip mining (the typical 
method for many industrial minerals) is 
expected to decrease the least-10% to 20%. 



Provisions expected to have the greatest 
effect in reducing the level of future mining 
include the following: 

• Applying the regulations to exiting 
operations. 

• Mandatory backfilling and other restrictive 
environmental performance standards for 
reclamation. 

• Specific technology design standards. 

• Eliminating Notices. 

• Native American concurrence. 

• Establishing suitability criteria. 

Mining-related impacts to water and air 
quality, soil, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, 
riparian and wetland areas, and other resources 
are expected to decrease proportionately for 
future operations. In addition, the higher 
environmental performance standards would 
further decrease environmental impacts at 
ongoing and future operations. 

Economic activity overall would decrease 
by 45% to 69% but would vary significantly by 
state, depending on mine type and commodities 
most prevalent. Depending on the degree of 
mining dependence in a community, Alternative 
4 could significantly affect social conditions. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5 an overall decrease in 
mineral activity is expected to range from 1 % to 
6%. Small mining operations that now operate 
under Notices would undergo the greatest 
decrease by 5% to 10%. Provisions expected to 
have the greatest effect in reducing the level of 
future mining include changing the threshold 
for Notice- and Plan-level operations, and 
bonding for Notices. Mining-related impacts to 
water and air quality, soil, vegetation, wildlife, 
fisheries, riparian and wetlands areas, and other 
resources are expected to decrease 
proportionately for future operations. 



Chapter 1 
Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



This final environmental impact statement 
(EIS) analyzes the Bureau of Land 
Management's (BLM) surface management 
program for locatable mineral operations on 
BLM-administered lands. The EIS analyzes the 
environmental impact of the existing 
regulations and alternatives to the existing 
regulations for the relevant issues identified 
during the scoping process. The existing 
surface management regulations are found 
under 43 CFR 3809 and presented in Appendix 
A. 

Chapter 1 explains the overall purpose of 
and need for action, gives a brief background 
and summary of relevant laws and regulations, 
and discusses issues suggested by the public 
and BLM employees for consideration in the 
rulemaking process. Results from the National 
Research Council (NRC) study, Hardrock 
Mining on Federal Lands (NRC 1999) are 
presented where applicable. 

Purpose Of and Need 
for Action 

The purpose of the Proposed Action is to 
address issues that have developed since BLM's 
Surface Management Program began in 1981 
and to improve BLM's management of 
locatable mineral activities on the public lands. 
Congress, the General Accounting Office, the 
National Research Council, BLM, and the 
public have all recognized the need for 
improvement in BLM's Surface Management 
Program under the existing 3809 regulations. 
Issues of general concern include the following: 

• BLM's effectiveness and consistency in the 
day-to-day implementing of the regulations 
in the field. 



• Environmental protection requirements for 
operations conducted under the mining laws, 
including performance standards, bonding, 
and enforcement provisions. 

• Improving working relationships with state 
regulators to reduce or eliminate duplication 
of mining plan review, bonding, and 
permitting. 

• Public and stakeholder involvement in the 
review and approval processes. 

• Receiving fair market value for the mining of 
common variety minerals that may not be 
locatable under the mining laws. 

• Determining the validity of mining claims 
within areas closed to mining before surface 
disturbance. 

In addition, changes to the existing 3809 
regulations are needed to address the following 
problems or regulatory gaps: 

• Financial assurance for reclaiming disturbed 
areas is now required only for Plan-level 
activity. BLM cannot require reclamation 
bonding for Notice-level activity under the 
existing regulations. NRC recommended that 
secure financial assurances be required for 
reclamation of all disturbances beyond casual 
use, including Notice-level activity. 

• BLM has no official way of clearing records 
for Notices. Notice-level activities are often 
never completed, or in some cases never 
started. Without a reclamation bond, or an 
expiration term, Notices are often left open 
for years with no incentive for the operator to 
complete the reclamation, notify BLM, and 
get the Notice closed. 

• Some small mining operations with high 
environmental risks, such as cyanide use or 
acid rock drainage potential, can proceed 
without National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) review or BLM approval, simply 



11 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



because they disturb less than 5 acres and 
qualify for having to submit only a Notice. A 
1999 survey of BLM field offices found more 
than 500 operations that operators had 
abandoned and left BLM with the reclamation 
responsibility. These were mostly small 
mining operations conducted under Notices. 
NRC recommended that all mining and 
milling operations be conducted under Plans 
of Operations and that Notices be used only 
for exploration. 

BLM lacks clear, consistent standards for 
environmental protection in the existing 
regulations. As NRC noted, although mining 
operations are regulated under a variety of 
environmental protection laws implemented 
by federal and state agencies, these laws may 
not adequately protect all the valuable 
environmental resources at a particular 
location proposed for mining development. 
Furthermore, the existing definition of 
"unnecessary or undue degradation" does not 
give BLM authority to protect all valuable 
resources. 

Mitigation is not defined to allow BLM to 
require compensation at offsite locations 
when the disturbed areas cannot be reclaimed 
to the point of giving plants, animals, and 
people the same benefits that existed before 
disturbance. This fact has resulted in an 
overall decrease in productivity around the 
areas of operations. 

BLM cannot suspend or nullify operations 
that disregard enforcement actions or pose an 
imminent danger to human safety or the 
environment. Criminal penalties under the 
existing regulations have often proven 
ineffective. The existing regulations do allow 
BLM to use civil penalties as an enforcement 
tool. NRC recommended that BLM have the 
authority to issue administrative penalties for 
violations of the regulations. 
BLM can require modifications to Plans of 
Operations only after a review by the State 
Director concludes that the circumstance 
prompting the modification could not have 
reasonably been foreseen in the original 
approval. The NRC recommended that this 
"looking backward" process should be 
abandoned in favor of one that focuses on 



what may be needed in the future to correct 
the environmental harm. NRC also 
recommended that the regulations be revised 
to provide more effective criteria for BLM to 
require Plan modifications where needed to 
protect federal land. 

The existing regulations do not distinguish 
between temporarily idle mines and 
abandoned operations. This distinction is 
needed to determine which mines need just to 
be stabilized, if idle, or which need to be 
reclaimed, if abandoned. NRC recommended 
that the regulations be changed (1) to define 
the temporary versus abandoned conditions 
and (2) to require interim management plans 
for operations that are only temporarily 
closed. 

The existing regulations do not provide for 
long-term, or perpetual, site maintenance such 
as water treatment or protection of surface 
reclamation. NRC recommended that BLM 
plan for and assure the successful long-term 
post-closure management of mine sites. 
The lack of clarity in the types of activities 
permissible under "casual use" has led to 
inconsistencies and, occasionally, 
environmental damage. Damage results 
mostly when many people concentrated in a 
small area engage in actions that individually 
fall into the category of casual use. The 
cumulative impacts of such activities by 
groups often exceed the "negligible 
disturbance" in the existing definition of 
casual use. 

In some operations proposed under the 
existing 3809 regulations the legal status of 
the material to be mined is in dispute as to 
whether it is locatable under the Mining Law 
or saleable as a common variety mineral. 
BLM needs regulations to resolve disputes 
without unreasonably delaying operations. 
The existing regulations have no requirement 
for preventing disturbances in areas closed to 
mineral entry until a discovery is determined 
to be valid or not. In areas closed to the 
operation of the Mining Law, surface 
disturbance should be allowed only where the 
right to mine predates the segregation or 
withdrawal. 



12 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



Scoping has identified specific program 
issues, which are discussed later in Chapter 1. 
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to adopt 
regulations that would address the issues and 
improve BLM's management of locatable 
mineral activities on the public lands. 

The Regulation 
Development and EIS 
Processes 

Revision of the 3809 regulations is 
proceeding under Section 553 of the 
Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 
553. BLM has determined that the proposed 
changes constitute a major federal action 
significantly affecting the human environment. 
Therefore, under the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) must be prepared. 

The rulemaking and EIS processes have 
been combined wherever possible to eliminate 
duplication. Concurrent comment periods, 
including public hearings on both the draft EIS 
and the proposed regulations, were held to 
solicit public comments according to the 
requirements of APA and NEPA. 

The integration of the NEPA and APA 
processes during the revisions of the 3809 
regulations is procedurally complex. Interaction 
between the preparers of the proposed 
regulations and the interdisciplinary team 
preparing the EIS resulted in several internal 
iterations of analysis before the proposed and 
final regulations were developed. 

The two acts also have their own 
scheduling requirements. The Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations 
implementing NEPA require that a decision 
cannot be made until 30 days after publishing 
the notice of availability of the final EIS in the 
Federal Register. APA requires a 30-day delay 
in the effective date of the final regulations after 
they are published. 

The EIS is not itself a decision document. It 
serves to help decision makers by disclosing the 
environmental consequences of implementing 



the Proposed Action and the alternatives. No 
sooner than 30-days after this final EIS is 
published, BLM will issue a record of decision 
selecting an alternative for implementation. 
This record of decision will most likely be 
incorporated within the preamble to the final 
regulations. The record of decision will not 
contain site-specific decisions for any mining 
proposals. BLM will make decisions on any 
future mining proposals on a case-by-case basis 
under the regulations. 

Other requirements for a rulemaking 
include preparing a cost-benefit analysis. 
Although related to the economic analysis in 
the EIS, the cost-benefit analysis involves 
different assumptions and is prepared for 
different purposes. 

BLM Authority and 
Responsibilities 

The General Mining Law of 1872, as 
amended, allows the location and use of mining 
claims on sites "...under such regulations 
prescribed by law," 30 U.S.C. 22, 26 and 28. 

Section 302 of the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act (FLPMA) addresses the 
management of use, occupancy, and 
development of the public lands. Section 302(b) 
of FLPMA recognizes the entry and 
development rights of mining claimants while 
directing the Secretary of the Interior to "...by 
regulation or otherwise, take any action 
necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation of the lands." 

These requirements and other legislation 
authorize BLM to regulate mineral activities so 
as to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation 
on BLM-managed lands open to operations 
under the Mining Law. The 43 CFR 3809 
regulations (3809 regulations) have been 
prepared to meet that legislative intent. 

The 3809 regulations apply to lands that are 
open to exploration and development under the 
Mining Law. The regulatory framework is not 
to decide "if mining should be allowed but to 
regulate "how" activities already authorized by 
the Mining Law are to be conducted to prevent 



13 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Meed for Action 



unnecessary or undue degradation. This 
framework gives BLM much discretion in 
regulating how exploration and mining are 
conducted on public lands but less discretion in 
determining whether exploration and mining 
should occur if the lands are legally open to 
operation of the Mining Law. Other processes, 
beyond the scope of the 3809 regulations, are 
used to close lands to exploration and 
development under the Mining Law. Such 
processes include administrative and 
congressional withdrawals. 

Cooperating Agencies 

No formal cooperating agencies were 
designated for preparing this EIS. BLM 
coordinated with state regulatory agencies 
through the Western Governors' Association 
and with other federal agencies in developing 
the proposed and final regulations. (See Chapter 
4, Consultation, Coordination, Public 
Participation, and Preparers.) 

Development of the 
Mining Law and 
Mineral Policies 

Before 1866 the United States lacked 
comprehensive legislation that defined mineral 
rights and access to minerals on the public 
lands. From 1797 to 1855 several partial leasing 
acts (covering lead, iron, salt, and copper) and 
the Cash Sale Act of 1 826 allowed the sale for 
$5 an acre of lands surveyed by the United 
States and classified as mineral lands. The rest 
of the public land could be purchased for $1.25 
an acre. Except for the Cash Sale Act, these acts 
all expired before 1855. 

The 1849 California gold rush and the 1854 
Nevada silver rush (to the Comstock silver lode 
in Virginia City) radically changed the entire 
perspective on mineral rights, access to 
minerals, and mineral titles on the public lands. 
Arriving by the thousands from the East Coast 
and disembarking in San Francisco, miners 
established themselves along the California 



mother lode belt (the western Sierra Nevada). 
Exploring ever eastward, they established 
hundreds of mining camps in the Sierra Nevada 
and in the Virginia Range in Nevada. 

In the absence of federal legislation on 
mining rights and titles, the miners established 
their own rules for acquiring mineral rights, 
mining claims, and diligence (assessment 
work). Though everyone was technically in 
trespass on the public domain, each mining 
district devised rules based on the Spanish 
Royal Codes of 1783 and the English customs 
and traditions of the Cornwall and Devon tin 
and lead districts. Surviving records show that 
by 1860 California, Nevada, and Arizona had 
some 650 mining districts, each with its own 
rules. 

In 1866 Congress finally reacted by passing 
the Lode Law, which applied only to lode 
claims. The Lode Law recognized the existing 
rules of the mining districts, required 
assessment work for keeping claims, and 
allowed the patenting of mining claims. In 1870 
the Lode Law was amended by the Placer Act, 
which treated placer claims in a similar manner 
to lode claims. In 1 872 Congress revised the 
Lode and Placer Acts, added amendments to 
protect agricultural rights, established federal 
rules, and passed what is today called the 
General Mining Law of 1 872 or the Mining 
Law. 

U.S. mining laws class minerals as 
locatable, leasable, or salable. Locatable 
minerals are neither leasable minerals (e.g. oil, 
gas, coal, oil shale, phosphate, sodium, 
potassium, sulfur, asphalt, or gilsonite) nor 
salable mineral materials (e.g. common variety 
sand and gravel). Locatable minerals include 
copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, nickel, tungsten, 
gold, silver, bentonite, barite, feldspar, 
flourspar, and uranium. Only locatable mineral 
deposits may be staked and claimed under the 
Mining Law. 

Under the Mining Law all valuable mineral 
deposits on lands belonging to the United States 
are free and open to entry, location, and patent. 
When minerals are found in enough quantity 
and quality on public land open to mineral 
entry, a person who locates a mining claim, 



14 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



complying with regulations prescribed by law, 
has the exclusive right of possession and 
enjoyment of the surface area of the claim and 
the mineral veins, lodes, and ledges within the 
claim as well as extra-lateral rights. 

Principles of the Mining Law 

The Mining Law consists of five basic 
elements: 

• discovery of a valuable mineral, 

• location of mining claims, 

• recordation of claims, 

• maintenance, performance of annual 
requirements on claims, 

• patenting of the mineral, and possibly 
surface, estate to the claimant. 

Discovery 

No federal statute defines what constitutes a 
valuable mineral deposit, but several judicial 
and administrative rulings or declarations have 
been made on the subject. In 1894 in the case 
of Castle v. Womble the Department of the 
Interior established the "prudent person rule." 
This rule states the following: 

"...where minerals have been found and 
the evidence is of such a character that a person 
of ordinary prudence would be justified in the 
further expenditure of his labor and means, with 
a reasonable prospect of success in developing 
a valuable mine, the requirements of the 
statutes have been met." 

This definition was affirmed by the United 
States Supreme Court in 1905. 

In 1968 in the case of U.S. v. Coleman the 
Supreme Court approved the marketability test 
as a complement to the prudent person rule. 
This test requires a showing of marketability to 
confirm that a mineral could be mined, 
removed, and marketed at a profit. In other 
words, the marketability test considers 
economics, requiring claimants to show that 
they have a reasonable prospect of selling 
material from a claim or a group of claims. The 
material does not have to have been sold or to 
be selling at a profit. There just needs to be a 



reasonable likelihood that it could be sold at a 
profit. 

Demonstrating an established market for 
precious and base metals is not difficult 
because of the international acceptance of 
metals and their universal needs. For industrial 
minerals the demonstration of a market is 
harder to establish because these markets are 
regional. 

Location 

Mining claims may be located only by 
citizens of the United States, persons who have 
declared an intention to become citizens, and 
corporations organized under any state law. 
Mining claims may be located only on public 
domain lands open to mineral entry under the 
mining laws and only for mineral commodities 
considered to be "locatable." A mineral is 
locatable if it is in the public domain and is a 
metallic mineral or an uncommon variety 
mineral valuable chiefly for chemical rather 
than physical properties. 

Upon discovery of a valuable mineral on 
unappropriated public domain land, a mining 
claim may be located. This claim grants the 
locator an exclusive possessory right to the 
mineral deposit. This possessory right allows 
the locator to continue to develop the claim as 
provided for by law. A mining claim is a valid 
right against the United States and other 
claimants only if a valuable mineral deposit has 
been discovered. 

There are four types of mining claims. The 
main types are lode and placer. Lode claims are 
located on bedrock, whereas placer claims are 
usually located on loosely consolidated 
materials such as mineral-bearing sands and 
gravels. A mill site claim may be located on 
unappropriated public domain land that is 
nonmineral in character and may be used for 
erecting a mill or reduction works, or for other 
uses reasonably incident to support of a mine. A 
tunnel site claim may be located on land where 
a tunnel is run to develop a vein or lode, or for 
intersecting unknown veins or lodes. 

The actual location of a mining claim 
involves posting a notice of location at the 
discovery point and erecting corner posts, or 



15 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



monuments, on the ground to ensure that the 
claim boundaries are readily recognizable. 

Recordation 

Before enactment of the Federal Land 
Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 
claimants were required to file their location 
and assessment notices only in the office of the 
county recorder or county clerk in the county in 
which the claim was located. Under FLPMA, 
notices of location and other notices must be 
filed with the BLM state office as well as the 
county recorder. This requirement has allowed 
BLM to generally know the number and types 
of claims on public land and their current status. 
To file a mining claim, the claimant must also 
pay a recordation fee. Failure to file these 
documents and pay the fee can constitute 
abandonment of a mining claim. 

Maintenance 

The Mining Law requires the annual 
performance of at least $100 worth of labor or 
improvements to retain a possessory interest in 
the claim or site. An affidavit of assessment 
work must be filed with both the county 
recorder and with the BLM state office. Owners 
of mill and tunnel sites are not required to file 
assessment work but must file a notice of intent 
to hold the site. Congress has changed the 
annual assessment work requirement by 
substituting a requirement to pay BLM a $100 
maintenance fee per mining claim. A claimant 
with fewer than 10 mining claims can perform 
the assessment work and file a small-miner 
exemption. Failure to pay the maintenance fee 
or obtain a waiver from BLM will constitute 
forfeiture of a mining claim. 

Patents 

One need not have a patent to mine and 
remove minerals from a mining claim. A patent 
gives the owner exclusive title to the locatable 
minerals and in most cases to the surface estate. 
To obtain patent, claimants must do the 
following: 



• Perform at least $500 worth of development 
work per claim. 

• Have a mineral survey and plat prepared at 
their expense. 

• Show that they hold possessory rights by 
chain of title documents. 

• Publish a notice for potential adverse 
claimants to assert their claims. 

• Demonstrate discovery of a valuable mineral 
deposit within the meaning of the Mining 
Law. 

Upon satisfactory completion of the above 
requirements, claimants can purchase their 
mining claims at $2.50/acre for placer claims 
and $5/acre for lode claims. 

Since 1994, Congress has established and 
continued a moratorium on filing new patent 
applications. The only patents now being 
processed are those that have received the first 
half of the mineral entry final certificates. 

Mining Law Amendments 

The Mining Law has been amended several 
times since its passage in 1872. The most 
important amendments are as follows. 

The Mineral Lands Leasing Act of 1920 
removed oil, gas, coal, sodium, potash, oil 
shale, and phosphate from the provisions of the 
Mining Law and made them leasable minerals. 
Geofhermal energy was added as a leasable 
mineral in 1970. 

The Surface Resources Act of 1955 
removed sand, gravel, cinders, and other 
construction materials from the provisions of 
the Mining Law and made them subject only to 
contract sales. This act also made all mining 
claims subject to the right of the United States 
to manage the surface resources on the claims 
and made it illegal to use and occupy a mining 
claim or site except for legitimate mining, 
milling, or exploration. 

The Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) 
established a national-level recording system 
for all mining claims and required that in 
managing the public lands the Secretary of the 



16 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Heed for Action 



Interior shall, by regulation or otherwise, take 
any action needed to prevent unnecessary or 
undue degradation of the lands. FLPMA also 
requires the Secretary to develop and maintain 
land use plans for the public lands. One purpose 
of land use plans is to select areas to be 
withdrawn from operation of the mining laws. 

Several other acts shape BLM's 
management of minerals on public land. These 
acts include the 1970 Mining and Mineral 
Policy Act and the 1980 National Materials 
and Minerals Policy Research and 
Development Act, both of which require that 
the public lands be managed to recognize the 
Nation's need for domestic sources of mineral 
production. 

In addition, a variety of state and federal 
environmental laws regulate locatable mineral 
activities. The federal and state laws on air and 
water quality, wildlife, and hazardous materials 
apply to all operations on BLM-managed lands. 
In addition to BLM requirements, states have 
passed their own permitting and reclamation 
laws, which apply to activities on public lands. 

History of the Surface 

Management 

Regulations 

BLM adopted the 3809 regulations in 1981 
after completing a programmatic EIS (BLM 
1980). The existing 3809 regulations are 
presented in Appendix A and described in 
Chapter 2. These regulations classify surface 
disturbance into three categories: casual use, 
Notice-level operations, and activities under 
Plans of Operations, also referred to as Plan- 
level operations. 

Casual use involves only negligible 
disturbance, usually with hand tools or 
nonmechanized earth-moving equipment and 
does not require the operator to notify BLM. 

Notice-level operations may use 
mechanized earth-moving equipment but only 
disturb 5 acres or less. For these operations 
BLM must be notified 15 calendar days in 



advance to ensure that the activity does not 
cause unnecessary or undue degradation. 

A Plan of Operations is required for more 
than 5 acres of surface disturbance or any 
surface disturbance in BLM's special status 
areas, such as areas of critical environmental 
concern (ACECs). BLM must review and 
approve a Plan of Operations before an 
operation begins. Since approval of a Plan of 
Operations is a federal action, an environmental 
assessment (EA) or environmental impact 
statement (EIS) must be prepared. Reclamation 
bonding can be required only for Plan-level 
operations under the existing regulations or for 
Notice-level operations if BLM has issued the 
operator a record of noncompliance. 

Since the original rules were issued in 1981, 
they have had several legal challenges. The 
factual basis for the regulations and the legal 
status of the Notice were the main issues in a 
1986 suit filed by the Sierra Club. Issues raised 
included the adequacy of the 1980 EIS (BLM 
1980) and whether a Notice was a federal action 
requiring environmental review under National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), similar to a 
Plan of Operations. The Ninth Federal Circuit 
Court ruled, among other matters, that a Notice, 
as constructed in the 3809 regulations, was 
essentially an enforcement tool (to remind 
operators of their reclamation responsibilities), 
and enforcement actions were exempt from the 
requirements of NEPA. See Sierra Club et al. v. 
Penfold et al, 664 F. Supp. 1299 (District of 
Alaska, 1987); aff'm Sierra Club v. Penfold, 
857 F 2d 1307 (9th Circuit, 1988). 

Recent Studies and 
Changes to the 
Surface Management 
Program 

When the regulations were published in 
1981, BLM made a commitment to review their 
effectiveness after 3 years. In 1985, a BLM 
work group was formed to consider changes to 



17 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Meed for Action 



the regulations relating to reclamation bonding. 
In 1989 BLM began a surface management 
initiative to make policy changes for cyanide 
use and compliance inspections in response to 
growing criticism of its management of mining 
operations, particularly the issues of wildlife 
deaths, failure to perform reclamation, and 
residential occupancy not incident to mining. 
These issues were the subjects of reports 
prepared by the U.S. General Accounting Office 
(1986, 1987a,b, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991a). 

In 1992 a task force of BLM specialists 
collected public comments and recommended 
changes to the 3809 regulations (BLM 1992a). 
In 1993 this revision effort was put on hold 
because it appeared that pending changes in the 
Mining Law would supersede any changes in 
the surface management regulations. 

Although these initiatives did not lead to 
overall revision of the 3809 regulations, the 
surface management program for implementing 
the regulations has undergone several important 
policy changes since 1981. A cyanide 
management policy was developed in 1990, and 
state-specific cyanide management plans were 
adopted to give guidance for managing cyanide 
use on public lands under the existing 
regulations. In 1992 the BLM Solid Minerals 
Reclamation Handbook (BLM 1992b) was 
completed to give guidance on reclamation 
practices. In 1996 BLM issued an acid rock 
drainage policy as guidance for program staff 
and managers for regulating mining. Also in 
1996 BLM published the regulations at 43 CFR 
3715 on occupancy of mining claims. 

In early 1997 BLM revised the 3809 
regulations for reclamation bonding. These 
changes were intended to address some of the 
problems BLM was experiencing in maintaining 
adequate reclamation bonds and improving its 
enforcement program. But the Northwest 
Mining Association challenged the 1997 
regulations in court for failure to follow the 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
in relation to assessing the effects on small 
entities. In May 1998 the District Court ruled 
against BLM, and the 1997 regulation revision 
is no longer in effect (Northwest Mining 



Association v. Babbitt, No. 97-1013, D.D.C. 
May 13, 1998). 

In February 1999, BLM published the 
proposed 3809 regulations and draft EIS (BLM 
1999b) for public comment. Later that year the 
National Research Council prepared a report 
under the direction of Congress to assess the 
adequacy of the existing regulatory framework 
for hardrock mining on public lands. This 
report, Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, was 
completed on September 29, 1999. The NRC 
report (NRC 1999) concluded that 
improvements in implementing the existing 
regulations present the greatest opportunity for 
improving environmental protection and the 
efficiency of the regulatory process. The NRC 
report then listed gaps in the existing 
regulations and recommended regulatory and 
nonregulatory changes to the program. These 
recommended changes are discussed as part of 
scoping in the next section. 



Scoping 



In January 1997 the Secretary of the 
Interior directed BLM to restart the regulatory 
review process promised by BLM in 1981 and 
again in 1992. In March 1997, BLM appointed 
a task force of agency staff experienced in the 
program to coordinate public involvement, 
develop regulation options, and oversee 
preparation of a programmatic EIS on the effect 
of any changes in the regulations. 

Because of the time that had passed since 
the 1992 effort, BLM conducted an extensive 
public participation process starting early in 
1997. From March through May 1997, BLM 
held briefings on the revision process for 
conservation and industry groups; congressional 
offices; the Western Governors' Association; 
and local, state, and federal government 
agencies. BLM also requested comments from 
its field offices on the adequacy of the existing 
regulations along with suggestions for 
improvement. 

An April 4, 1997 Federal Register notice 
announced preparation of the EIS, requested 
comments on the scope of the analysis in the 



18 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



EIS, and set forth a schedule for public scoping 
meetings. To collect a wide range of comments 
BLM arranged for public meetings to be held at 
a variety of locations across the country in the 
spring of 1997. (See Chapter 4: Consultation, 
Coordination. Public Participation, and 
Preparers.) 

To establish a framework for the scoping 
process BLM presented the following list of 
topics, including those specified in the 
Secretary of the Interior's memorandum and 
others that had previously been named as 
program issues: 

• Definition of unnecessary or undue 
degradation. 

• Need to develop specific performance 
standards for mining and reclamation. 

• Five-acre disturbance threshold between a 
Notice and a Plan of Operations. 

• Effectiveness of coordination among state and 
federal regulators. 

• Type and adequacy of penalties for violating 
the regulations. 

• Review time frames for Notices and Plans of 
Operations. 

• Definition of casual use. 

• Requirements for reclamation bonding. 

Participants were also invited to comment 
on any other issues of concern with respect to 
the surface management program. 

BLM formally accepted scoping comments 
through June 23, 1997, but the record remains 
open until the final regulations are completed. 
In addition to oral comments at the public 
meetings, BLM received 1,832 comment letters 
on revising the 3809 regulations. A more 
detailed presentation of the comments received 
during scoping may be found in the September 
1997 Scoping Report (BLM 1997a) available 
from BLM. 

The results of the NRC (1999) report also 
constitute scoping comments in that NRC 
provided professional input on the existing 
regulatory program and suggested new issues or 
possible alternatives. NRC findings and 
recommendations are included in this section. 



Issues and Concerns 

Scoping helped BLM determine the issues 
that needed to be considered in the rulemaking 
and EIS processes. These issues include the 
following. 

Definition of Unnecessary 
or Undue Degradation 

The Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act charges the Secretary of the Interior with 
preventing "unnecessary or undue degradation" 
of the public lands. The current definition of 
"unnecessary or undue degradation" is set forth 
in the 3809 regulations. Whether the existing 
definition is adequate or should be expanded to 
include items such as the use of best available 
technology and practices (BAT) was the subject 
of a wide range of comments. 

A large segment of industry and some 
agency staff assert that the existing definition is 
workable and flexible and should not be 
changed. Many commenters questioned exactly 
what was meant by BAT and were concerned 
that it would lock industry into "one-size-fits- 
all" design standards that ignore site-specific 
characteristics, fail to consider economics, and 
stifle innovation. 

On the other hand, many commented that 
the current definition is too open to 
interpretation and, hence, abuse. They asserted 
that a less subjective definition is needed, and 
that "prudent operator" and "usual, customary, 
and proficient," terms used in the existing 
regulations, neither ensure the feasibility of 
control technology nor adequately protect 
public land resources. 

BLM also received comments on setting a 
specific threshold for unnecessary or undue 
degradation on the basis of measured impacts 
(e.g. rills greater than 3-inches deep, any offsite 
impacts, impact greater than if BAT were used). 
Some commenters recommended that the land 
use planning process specify stated levels of 
protection for sensitive resources and locally 
refine the definition of unnecessary or undue 
degradation. Other commenters felt that the 



19 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Meed for Action 



definition should include items such as the 
following: 

• Prohibiting irreparable resource damage. 

• Requiring logical mineral development 
sequencing. 

• Prohibiting uses not reasonably incident to 
mining or milling. 

NRC recommended that BLM prepare 
guidance manuals and conduct staff training to 
communicate its authority to protect resources 
that may not be protected by other laws. NRC 
noted that the current regulatory definition of 
unnecessary or undue degradation does not 
explicitly provide authority to protect valuable 
or sensitive resources that are not protected by 
other laws. Some resources may deserve to be 
protected from all impacts, whereas other 
resources may withstand some impacts with 
mitigation. 

Performance Standards for 
Operations and 
Reclamation 

The existing regulations include general 
performance standards such as preventing 
unnecessary or undue degradation and 
complying with all other environmental laws. 
Whether specific performance standards should 
be developed, and if they should be design 
based or outcome based, was the subject of 
comment. 

Comments ranged from "do not have any 
standard other than preventing unnecessary or 
undue degradation" to "develop uniform 
national design standards for operations and 
reclamation." Many commenters were 
concerned that "one-size-fits-all" national 
standards would not be flexible enough to 
account for site-specific conditions. Other 
commenters thought that the current general 
industry were not an acceptable minimum for 
public lands. There was concern that BLM- 
developed standards would conflict with 
standards used by states with primacy under the 
Clean Water Act. Many felt that if standards 



were developed, they should be outcome-based 
performance standards rather than having a 
certain design or technology mandated by 
BLM. 

Comments on the standards for pit 
backfilling varied. Some felt backfilling should 
always be required to bring the land surface 
back to premining conditions. Others noted that 
pit backfilling would make many mines 
uneconomic and was not feasible in all cases. 
Several noted that pit backfilling can create 
greater environmental impacts than leaving pits 
open after mine closure. Others argued that 
water quality in postmining pit lakes poses a 
potentially permanent hazard. 

NRC recommended that BLM continue to 
base permitting decisions on the site-specific 
evaluation process provided by NEPA. NRC 
also recommended that BLM continue to use 
comprehensive performance-based standards 
rather than using rigid, technically prescriptive 
standards. NRC noted that BLM should 
regularly update technical and policy guidance 
to clarify how statutes and regulations should be 
interpreted and enforced. Although a variety of 
environmental protection laws regulate mining, 
NRC determined that these laws may not 
adequately protect all the valuable 
environmental resources, such as springs, seeps, 
riparian habitat, ephemeral streams, and certain 
types of wildlife. 

Definition of Federal Lands 

The existing 3809 regulations apply only to 
BLM-managed surface where the mineral estate 
is subject to the mining laws. In certain 
situations under the current requirements at 43 
CFR 3814, BLM does process Plans of 
Operations and administer bonding on behalf of 
the surface owner where the surface is privately 
owned and the minerals are federally owned. 
This situation generally applies to (1) lands 
patented under the Stock Raising Homestead 
Act, where the government reserved the 
locatable minerals or to (2) other lands where 
the minerals were reserved from a sale or 
exchange. Some commented that the 3809 
regulations should apply to these lands. Another 



20 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



comment was that regulations were needed on 
lands where BLM manages only the surface but 
the mineral estate is held in private or state 
ownership. According to this comment, the 
3809 regulations are best suited for this 
situation because they were formulated to 
address the private development rights of 
mining claimants. 

Threshold for a Notice or 
Plan of Operations 

At present most mineral activities that 
disturb less than 5 acres during any calendar 
year operate under a Notice and do not require 
BLM approval. Operations that disturb more 
than 5 acres need a Plan of Operations, review 
under the National Environmental Policy Act, 
and BLM's formal approval. Comments varied 
from raising the threshold and having more 
Notices to eliminating the Notice provision 
entirely and requiring all activity greater than 
casual use to have approved Plans of 
Operations. Comments proposed various 
acreage thresholds. Other suggestions proposed 
basing the threshold on impacts instead of 
acreage, or on the type of activity by retaining 
Notices only for exploration and requiring Plans 
of Operations for mining. 

Secretary Babbitt also directed BLM to 
analyze impacts of adopting the Forest Service 
threshold of significant disturbance for a Plan of 
Operations. Concern was expressed about the 
amount of time BLM would take to process a 
large increase in the number of Plans of 
Operations and the increased workload that 
would result from making Notices federal 
actions under the National Environmental 
Policy Act. 

NRC recommended that Plans of 
Operations be required for mining and milling 
operations other than those classified as casual 
use or exploration, even if the area disturbed 
consists of less than 5 acres. NRC also believes 
that a Plan of Operations should generally be 
required for activities involving bulk sampling 
due to the significant amount of disturbance that 
can occur from this form of advanced 



exploration. NRC concluded that, with financial 
assurance, the 5-acre threshold appears 
reasonable for requiring exploration disturbance 
to go to a Plan of Operations. 

Definition of Casual Use 

Casual use refers to activities causing 
negligible surface disturbance where an 
operator does not have to notify BLM or submit 
either a Notice nor a Plan of Operations. 
Comments on clarifying the definition of casual 
use focused on such topics as the acceptable 
size (if any) of a portable suction dredge, the 
use of explosives or earth-moving equipment, 
underground mining, and the impacts of 
recreational mining. Comments varied from 
stating that any activity producing a salable 
commodity was not casual use to casual use 
should allow up to 1 acre of disturbance. 
Commenters gave examples of environmental 
degradation caused by the cumulative impacts 
of casual use, such as concentrated weekend 
mining by recreation groups. 

NRC (1999) commented that it favors BLM 
retaining the distinction for casual use 
operations and that it believes BLM is properly 
regulating small suction dredging operations 
under the current regulations as casual use. 

Notice and Plan of 
Operations Processing and 
Contents 

Comments were received on the amount of 
time BLM takes to process Notices and Plans 
and what amount of time is suitable. Many 
commenters felt that the current Notice time 
frame of 15 calendar days is too short and 
suggested more review time to assure that 
resources are adequately protected. Comments 
on Plans of Operations criticized the excessive 
time (years) needed to get through the National 
Environmental Policy Act process or some other 
statutory review and stated that few Plans can 
be approved in 90 days if impacts are 
controversial or significant. 

Some commenters requested that the review 



21 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Heed for Action 



process be speeded up, whereas others wanted it 
slower to allow more public involvement. An 
automatic approval provision was recommended 
for cases in which BLM would fail to meet 
review time frames. Some suggested that the 
problem is not with the time frames themselves 
but with BUM's low staffing levels and budget. 
Commenters suggested that BLM specify that it 
must receive a "complete" Plan or Notice 
before the start of any time frame and that a 
completeness process be developed in the 
regulations. 

NRC ( 1 999) had several recommendations 
for the contents and processing of Plans of 
Operations. NRC believed that with adequate 
bonding for reclamation, small miners should 
receive expedited permits. NRC also concluded 
that the current BLM 3809 regulations with a 
15-day response time for Notice-level 
exploration should be retained. 

NRC recommended that from the earliest 
stages of the NEPA process, all agencies with 
jurisdiction over mining or affected resources 
should be required to cooperate in the scoping, 
preparation, and review of EISs or 
environmental assessments for new mines. 
Tribes and nongovernmental organizations 
should be encouraged to participate from the 
earliest stages. NRC also suggested that BLM 
develop procedures to enable it to determine, in 
the review and approval process for Plans of 
Operations, the kinds of postmining 
requirements that are likely to arise and to 
incorporate these requirements into the 
approved Plan of Operations. 

In addition, NRC recommended that (1) 
BLM plan for and implement a more timely 
permitting process, while still protecting the 
environment, and that (2) the lead agency set 
and achieve deadlines and have enough 
qualified staff to do so. BLM should compile 
and study information on the time involved in 
recent reviews to determine causes for delays. 



State Government 
Coordination 

Because most states have reclamation laws 
with environmental permitting requirements that 
also apply on BLM lands, coordination between 
BLM and state regulatory agencies is essential. 
Comments tended to be divided over who 
should develop the regulations for BLM- 
managed lands. Some commented that 
consistent nationwide federal rules are needed 
to provide a minimum standard and that BLM 
must retain primacy on public lands. Others 
commented that current state programs are 
adequate and more suitable for local conditions 
and that BLM should not duplicate them. 
Commenters also suggested that BLM "certify" 
state programs for the public lands and retain 
oversight. 

NRC pointed out that given the variation in 
topography, climate, and area of federal lands 
open to hardrock mining in any state, 
differences in state laws, and local differences 
in public attitudes toward mining, consistency 
among state agreements may not be needed or 
even desirable. 

Claim Validity and Valid 
Existing Rights 

Some comments recommended that to 
prevent unnecessary or undue degradation and 
mining scams, BLM should determine if an 
economic deposit exists before permitting 
operations. Others commented that BLM should 
conduct claim validity exams on all lands 
before accepting Notices or approving Plans of 
Operations, or that BLM should conduct 
validity exams on claims in withdrawn areas or 
special management areas before allowing 
mining. 



22 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



Common Variety Minerals 

A current problem is that Notices or Plans 
of Operations are filed for mining of material 
that may not be locatable under the Mining Law 
but rather should be sold as common variety 
materials. The present policy is to process the 
3809 action and collect potential royalties in 
escrow while the locatable versus salable nature 
of the material is determined. Comments 
recommended that this procedure be included in 
the 3809 regulations or that some other 
procedure be devised to address this issue. 

Inspection and Monitoring 
Programs 

BLM inspects operations to determine if 
operators are complying with the regulations. 
But particularly on large projects, operators are 
responsible for conducting the routine 
environmental monitoring and reporting the 
results. Comments suggested that the 
regulations do the following: 

• Mandate a set inspection frequency by BLM. 

• Require operators to hire independent outside 
consultants to conduct environmental 
monitoring. 

• Allow citizens to accompany BLM on 
inspections. 

Other comments said that self-monitoring 
was acceptable if BLM verified the results and 
that the frequency of inspections should be 
based on the individual risk of the operations 
and not be specified in the regulations. 

NRC concerns about inspection and 
monitoring focused on post-closure issues. NRC 
noted that an important part of long-term 
management will be monitoring, inspection, and 
low-level maintenance of reclamation features, 
such as soil cover, vegetation, closed 
impoundments, waste rock piles, and water 
diversion structures. In some cases the quality 
of surface or ground water must also be 
monitored. 



Type and Adequacy of 
Penalties for 
Noncompliance 

The issue of penalties for noncompliance 
was presented to the public because the current 
system does not include administrative penalties 
but relies on filing complaints in federal court. 
Comments on this issue varied from those who 
felt that BLM should stay away from any 
penalty system to those who favored stronger 
penalties and permit revocations for 
noncompliance. Some industry representatives 
favored an intermediate administrative penalty 
system and process as a way of resolving cases 
before court proceedings begin. Several related 
issues arose during scoping. Among these were 
using compliance history as a basis for future 
permit decisions, revoking mining claims or 
permits for noncompliance, and blocking future 
permits for noncompliance. 

NRC recommended that BLM should have 
both (1) authority to issue administrative 
penalties for violations of their regulatory 
requirements, subject to due process and (2) 
clear procedures for referring activities to other 
federal and state agencies for enforcement. 

Reclamation Bonding 
Requirements 

The regulations published in February 1997 
required some form of financial assurance for 
reclaiming all Notice- and Plan-level 
operations. In May 1998 these regulations were 
remanded to BLM and are no longer in effect. 
As part of the overall revision of the 3809 
regulations, BLM asked for more comments on 
this issue. One comment suggested eliminating 
the requirement in the 1997 version for bond 
cost estimates to be certified by a third-party 
registered professional engineer. Some 
commenters wanted the bonding requirement 
eliminated, or eliminated for Notice-level 
operations or small mines. Others wanted all 
surface disturbance, regardless of size, to be 
fully bonded for reclamation. 



23 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



Still others commented that the bond 
amount should be expanded from covering just 
the reclamation costs to include the possible 
costs of an accidental spill, release, or structural 
failure. BLM's administering of a nationwide 
bonding pool was suggested as a way to provide 
bonding for small operators. Comments further 
suggested that (1) bonds need to be held for 
years past mine closure in certain areas to 
ensure reclamation success and (2) that public 
notification and comment should be obtained on 
the bond amount and before bond release. 

The NRC (1999) report made several 
comments on financial guarantees. NRC 
concluded that the financial mechanisms be 
secure and liquid enough to allow responses to 
near- term needs. NRC found that current 
procedures for financial assurance inadequately 
protected the public and the environment. NRC 
recommended that financial assurance be 
required for reclaiming disturbances to the 
environment caused by all mining activities 
beyond casual use, even if the area disturbed is 
less than 5 acres. Financial assurance 
instruments should also be updated with 
changing conditions that might affect the levels 
of bonding or other forms of financial 
assurance. 

NRC further recommended that BLM 
establish standard bond amounts for certain 
types of activities on specific kinds of terrain. A 
set of activity- and terrain-dependent standard 
bond amounts should be established for typical 
activities in lieu of detailed calculations based 
on the engineering design of a mine or mill. 
Suitable types of financial assurance should be 
investigated for long-term water treatment. 
NRC also encouraged the use of bond pools to 
lessen the financial burden on small miners. 
NRC stated that it did not intend that bonding 
of exploration result in a federal action that 
would automatically require an environmental 
assessment or EIS. 



Plan Modifications 

Another issue discussed by NRC was the 
Plan modification process, through which BLM, 
when finding a problem with an ongoing 



operation, can require that the Plan of 
Operations be modified. NRC recommended 
that BLM revise its regulations to give more 
effective criteria for modifications to Plans, 
where necessary, to protect federal lands. NRC 
noted that staff comments and documents 
suggest that the regulations should be modified 
to improve criteria for modifications, require 
periodic reviews, and/or specify expiration 
dates for approved Plans of Operations to assure 
the opportunity to adjust practices where 
needed. But NRC did not determine if Plans of 
Operations should be reviewed or reopened at 
predetermined intervals. 

Temporary or Permanent 
Closure 

NRC made two recommendations on 
temporary or permanent closure. The first 
recommendation is that BLM adopt consistent 
regulations that do the following: 

• Define conditions under which mines will be 
considered temporarily closed. 

• Require that interim management plans be 
submitted for such periods. 

• Define the conditions under which temporary 
closure becomes permanent and all 
reclamation closure requirements must be 
met. 

The second recommendation is that BLM 
should plan for and assure the long-term post- 
closure management of mine sites on federal 
lands. 

NRC went on to state that BLM should 
consider land uses suitable for closed and 
reclaimed mines and whether any uses should 
be controlled or precluded. NRC noted that 
management requirements need to address and 
assure the following: 

• Future mineral access. 

• Measures to protect the public from safety 
hazards. 

• Measures to assure integrity of closed waste 
units, including monitoring and repair. 



24 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



• Long-term environmental monitoring with 
corrective measures. 

• Operation and maintenance of water treatment 
facilities needed to maintain water quality 
compliance over the long term. 

• Financial assurance for implementing these 
post-closure management requirements. 

Appeals Process 

Under the existing regulations, operators 
can appeal to the BLM state director and then to 
the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IB LA). 
Parties other than operators must appeal directly 
to IBLA. Decisions are in full force and effect 
during an appeal unless a written request for a 
stay is granted. 

Several entities commented on the appeals 
process. One comment suggested that, upon 
appeal, the decisions of the authorized officer 
be automatically stayed (put on hold) until the 
appeal has been fully considered. Another 
comment recommended that the appeals process 
for operators and third parties be the same and 
have a state director review provision. 

Definition of Project Area 

The current definition of a project area is a 
single tract of land upon which operations are 
conducted and one or more mining claims have 
been filed under one ownership. Some 
comments stated that the definition should 
allow for multiple claim ownership where a 
single operator is mining. Other comments 
stated that a project area should include 
underground mining beneath BLM lands and 
support facilities not on the claims, and that a 
permit or project area boundary be specified to 
define individual project areas. 

Existing Operations 

If the regulations are changed, the question 
of how they would apply to existing or pending 
operations must be addressed. Comments 
ranged from exempting existing operations to 
giving existing operations a set period of time 
in which to comply with any new requirements. 



Issues and Concerns 
Not Addressed 

The following issues were raised but are not 
within the scope of the 3809 regulations and 
were neither addressed through this rulemaking 
process nor used to develop alternatives in the 
EIS. 

1872 Mining Law 

The issues of patenting of mining claims 
and lack of royalties on mineral production are 
outside the scope of the surface management 
regulations. These provisions are part of the 
ongoing national debate over the Mining Law 
and are best addressed through congressional 
action. 

American Indian Trust 
Responsibilities 

Commenters stated that mining has affected 
American Indian lands, resources, and people, 
and that the 3809 regulations should be written 
to preclude activities with those impacts. Also 
raised were the following concerns: 

• The public lands are important to American 
Indians for their traditional cultural values. 

• These lands are not being protected from 
mining by the 3809 process. 

• These types of impacts violate Executive 
Order 1 2898 on Environmental Justice. 

These issues are commonly raised for many 
activities on public lands and are larger in scope 
than the 3809 regulations. The 3809 regulations 
are not used to review or approve mining on 
Indian lands. BLM's American Indian trust 
responsibilities are defined through legislation, 
executive order, and Department of the Interior 
policy, regardless of the type of activity or 
degree of specificity in regulations. To maintain 
consistency in how BLM executes its trust 
responsibilities, the EIS does not consider 
alternatives that would establish separate trust 
responsibilities specific to mining. But as part 



25 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



of its impact analysis, this EIS does address the 
effect of the alternatives on American Indian 
social, cultural, and religious concerns. 

Citizen Suits 

Scoping comments requested that the 3809 
regulations incorporate "citizen suit" provisions 
to allow citizens to enforce the regulations 
through the court system. The emphasis of these 
comments was that citizens need to gain access 
to mining projects and see firsthand the 
inspections that are being conducted because 
BLM is not promptly responding to citizen 
complaints. Provisions for citizens to 
accompany inspectors are within the scope of 
the regulations and are included in the 
alternatives discussion. But the underlying 
authority does not provide for establishing a 
citizen suit provision (Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act) and citizen suits are outside 
the scope of the regulations to address. 

BLM Cost Recovery 

Comments suggested that BLM require 
recovery of some or all of its administrative 
costs from the mineral operators as a way of 
funding the program. The issue of cost recovery 
is broader in scope than the 3809 regulations. 
Cost recovery may be addressed by a separate 
rulemaking for all programs, not just for 
locatable minerals. 

Agency Funding and 
Staffing 

Many comments noted that BLM does not 
have adequate funding and staffing to 
administer the program and that increases in the 
funding and staffing levels are the best way to 
address current problems. Aside from certain 
cost-recovery provisions (see above), agency 
funding and staffing levels cannot be 
established through regulations but are subject 
to congressional appropriation. While NRC 
noted that better implementing of the existing 
program presents the greatest opportunity for 
improving regulatory efficiency, the funding 



and staffing issue is outside the scope of the 
regulations to resolve. Nor does changing the 
regulations preclude BLM from pursuing 
regulatory efficiency. The EIS does include a 
discussion of the relative workload costs for 
implementing each alternative. 

National Environmental 
Policy Act Processing of 
Plans of Operations 

BLM received comments on how to 
conduct environmental review (environmental 
assessments or EISs) for Plans of Operations 
during scoping with regard to cumulative 
impact analysis, evaluating mitigating measures, 
and establishing EIS consultant qualifications. 
The NRC report emphasized continued reliance 
un the NEPA process and the early involvement 
of all stakeholders. The Council on 
Environmental Quality regulations at 40 CFR 
1500 provide the requirements for 
implementing NEPA. Guidance on how to 
conduct environmental analysis for mining is 
more suitably developed through agency 
manuals or handbooks than by regulation, 
because of the evolving techniques in impact 
analysis and rapid technological developments 
in reclamation and mitigation. 

Abandoned Mine Lands 

One scoping comment stated that BLM 
lacks a consistent, nationwide review and 
approval process for abandoned mine land 
projects and that BLM should use the review 
process and performance standards in the 3809 
regulations to review its own abandoned mine 
land projects. BLM does not consider this issue 
to be within the scope of the 3809 regulations. 
The technical requirements and capabilities of 
new or active mines under the 3809 regulations 
differ greatly from those of historic abandoned 
mines. Most abandoned mines that predate 
modern permitting regulations lacked the 
planning for eventual reclamation that goes into 
present-day mines and therefore are much more 
difficult to reclaim. The performance standards 



26 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



in the 3809 regulations rely on advanced 
consideration of eventual reclamation needs 
before mining begins in order to have practical 
application. It may not be technically or 
economically feasible to apply the 3809 
performance standards to an abandoned mine 
that did not consider reclamation needs during 
its operation. The issue of a consistent review 
and approval process for abandoned mine lands 
has been forwarded to BLM's Abandoned Mine 
Lands Task Force for its consideration. 

Diligent Development 

Some comments noted that Notice- or Plan- 
level operations often sit idle for many years 
with only minimal work and that a diligence 
requirement should be included in the 
regulations. Requiring diligent mineral 
development as a prerequisite to maintaining 
mining claims is not considered within the 
scope of the 3809 regulations because the 
mining laws mention no time frame for mineral 
extraction. The mining laws focus instead on 
assessment work and claim maintenance fees. A 
discussion of the related issue of diligent 
reclamation and temporary or permanent 
closure of operations is included under Notices 
and Plans of Operations in Chapter 2. 

Recreational Mining 

Commenters stated that recreational mining 
was not intended under the mining laws since it 
did not result in commercial production. 
Establishing separate requirements to determine 
if a person is engaged in hobby versus 
commercial mining is not considered within the 
scope of the 3809 regulations. This 
determination would involve evaluating the 
economics of hobbyists working in areas open 
to recreational use anyway. Rather, the 
environmental effects of such concentrated 
activity are considered under the definition of 
casual use and alternatives considered for 
determining at what level of activity a Notice or 
a Plan of Operations should be required. 



Public Availability of 
Information 

Some comments suggested that all mine 
records be open for public review and that 
companies be required to disclose information 
on company finances, corporate officers, 
partners, directors, and compliance history. 
Much of this information may already be 
obtained from other government agencies such 
as the Securities and Exchange Commission. 
Most project- specific information that BLM 
receives may be obtained under the Freedom of 
Information Act, which applies to all BLM 
programs. A need for public disclosure 
requirements beyond existing authorities has not 
been established. 

Combining 3809 
Regulations with 
Occupancy Regulations 

One comment suggested that BLM combine 
the 43 CFR 3715 regulations for mining claim 
occupancy with the 3809 regulations. Changes 
in the procedures for addressing occupancy 
have recently been addressed through 
regulation. A cross-reference with the 3715 
regulations has been included in the proposed 
regulations to maintain consistency and improve 
user understanding. 

Consistency with the Forest 
Service Regulations 

Some commenters requested that both BLM 
and the Forest Service change their surface 
management regulations at the same time to 
promote consistency. Others said that BLM 
should not try to parallel Forest Service 
regulations. A joint revision effort requires 
Forest Service action. The NRC (1999) report 
concluded that the Forest Service and BLM 
need not have identical regulations that are 
uniform in all respects. Rather the report 



27 



Chapter 1 - Introduction: Purpose of and Need for Action 



suggested changes that would make the 
agencies' approach to regulating hardrock 
mining more similar. It is beyond BLM's 
authority to change any of the surface 
management requirements for operations on 
lands administered by the Forest Service or to 



require the Forest Service to revise its 
regulations concurrently with BLM. The 
proposed regulations did consider adopting a 
threshold between a Notice and a Plan of 
Operations similar to current Forest Service 
regulations. 



28 



Chapter 2 
Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Significant Issues 

The purpose of the alternatives is to allow 
the decision maker to consider ways to address 
and resolve issues recognized during the 
scoping process. The resolution of significant 
issues forms the framework of an alternative, 
with the resolution of lesser issues included 
around the alternative's central theme. This 
section describes how those significant issues 
led to the developing of the alternatives. 

The development of alternatives centered 
on addressing regulatory issues in six general 
areas: 

• Coordination between BLM and state 
regulatory agencies. 

• Notice-Plan of Operations threshold. 

• Defining performance standards. 

• Financial assurance for performing 
reclamation. 

• Regulation enforcement and penalties for 
noncompliance. 

• Consistency with the National Research 
Council report (NRC 1999). 

Although other relevant issues were 
considered, these significant issues played a 
major role in defining the alternatives to be 
analyzed in detail. 

State-Federal Coordination 

A significant issue consists of maintaining 
and improving coordination between the states 
and BLM and determining the relative level of 
responsibility for regulating mineral exploration 
and development. Alternatives developed to 
address this issue range from turning the 
program entirely over to state regulation to 
having BLM always assume the lead role for 
regulating mineral activities on public lands. 



Some states and many industry 
representatives commented that the existing 
state-federal programs are adequate to regulate 
mining and that the existing regulations provide 
for the proper level of coordination to eliminate 
duplication. This position is reflected in 
Alternative 1, which would maintain the 
existing regulations. 

Others commented that BLM regulation is 
redundant and not needed. Alternative 2 was 
developed to address these concerns. 
Alternative 2 would give the states the sole 
responsibility for day-to-day regulation and 
reduce BLM's role in regulation to periodic 
general oversight. State programs would meet 
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act 
(FLPMA) requirement of preventing 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

Alternative 3 was designed to give the 
option of deferring to state requirements for 
some, possibly large, portions of regulations 
while maintaining BLM concurrence authority 
on individual projects. This alternative would 
allow states to take the lead whenever possible 
yet maintain BLM's ability to regulate 
individual projects. 

Some commenters expressed concern that 
anything less than a program of complete 
federal regulation of operations on federal lands 
would not adequately protect the environment. 
Alternative 4 addresses this concern with 
regulations that require BLM to play the lead 
role in all aspects of mining regulation on 
public lands. Although state regulations would 
still apply under Alternative 4, corresponding 
federal regulations would be at least as stringent 
and would guide the activity with design-based 
standards. 

Alternative 5 would address comments that 
the existing system is working fine by leaving 
the state-federal coordination basically 
unchanged. At the same time, Alternative 5 



29 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



would incorporate NRC's recommendation that 
BLM develop procedures for referring activities 
to the states for enforcement. 

Notice or Plan of 
Operations (Plan) 
Threshold 

Alternative 1 in this chapter describes the 
existing regulations' 5-acre threshold between 
when operations must submit Notices and when 
they must prepare Plans of Operations. Briefly, 
a Notice is required for surface disturbance of 5 
acres or less during a calendar year, whereas a 
Plan of Operations is required for disturbance 
of more than 5 acres in a calendar year, or 
disturbance of any size exceeding casual use 
and occurring on special status areas. 

BLM received a wide range of comments 
on this threshold. Some commenters wanted the 
threshold left as it is. Alternative 1 would not 
change the threshold and addresses this 
comment. Some commented that the 
requirements to file a Notice or Plan duplicated 
the filing requirements under state regulatory 
programs and were not needed. Eliminating the 
BLM filing and review requirements was 
included in Alternative 2 to address this issue. 

Alternative 3 responds to comments that the 
current 5-acre Notice threshold is not always 
suitable, and to the recommendations of the 
NRC (1999) report. Alternative 3 would 
maintain the Notice provision but change the 
threshold from 5 acres of surface disturbance to 
a criterion based on mining versus exploration. 
Thus, operators proposing mines or collecting 
bulk samples exceeding 1 ,000 tons must file a 
Plan of Operations regardless of the acreage 
that would be disturbed, even if it is less than 5 
acres. This approach responds to the comments 
that the Notice or Plan threshold should be 
driven mainly by the type of activity, not 
necessarily its size. Special status lands, where 
Plans of Operations are always required, have 
been expanded under Alternative 3 to address 
comments that sensitive lands and resources 
receive increased protection. 



Some commenters were concerned that 
allowing operations to be conducted under a 
Notice would never be suitable because no 
National Environmental Policy Act review or 
opportunity for public involvement would be 
required. Alternative 4 addresses that concern 
by eliminating the Notice provision and 
requiring Plans of Operations for any surface 
disturbance exceeding casual use. 

Alternative 5 is restricted to just 
implementing the NRC (1999) 
recommendations in response to comments that 
BLM should consider an alternative that would 
change the regulations only where NRC has 
recognized regulatory gaps. Alternative 5 
responds to these comments and proposes a 
Notice-Plan threshold based on mining versus 
exploration, the same as Alternative 3. Because 
NRC did not recommend deleting the special 
status lands where a Plan is always required, 
Alternative 5 would retain the existing special 
status land categories. 

Performance Standards 

An important aspect of the 3809 regulations 
consists of the standards that govern how 
operators must control the extent of impacts on 
the ground. Alternatives were developed to 
address comments on the following: 

• Environmental resources for which standards 
should be developed. 

• Whether standards should be design or 
outcome oriented. 

• Level of environmental protection the 
standards should give. 

BLM could have developed and analyzed 
other combinations of standards. But the 
alternatives selected for analysis give a 
reasonable representative range of impacts to 
help agency decision makers. Every alternative 
includes compliance with other state or federal 
laws and regulations as a minimum 
performance standard. 

Alternative 1 includes the existing 
performance standards. It also addresses 
comments that the existing regulations are 



30 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



adequate and that the regulations should contain 
minimum standards with details developed on 
an individual project basis or through policy 
guidance as needed to prevent unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 

Alternative 2 contains no BLM 
performance standards but relies on state 
environmental regulations and other federal 
environmental protection requirements. This 
alternative addresses the comments that BLM 
performance standards are not needed because 
other state or federal requirements are adequate 
to protect the environment. State requirements 
vary from general outcome-based standards to 
prescriptive design standards, depending on the 
state program. 

Alternative 3 proposes outcome-based 
BLM standards. These standards address the 
issue that, in addition to the state and other 
federal standards, BLM should have its own 
performance standards for operations on public 
lands. 

The proposed standards are written to focus 
on performance and outcome, with minimum 
direction on design or required technology. This 
approach addresses comments that BLM should 
not develop one-size-fits-all design standards 
but allow for site- specific environmental 
conditions, promote innovation, and focus 
regulation on the end-performance result. This 
approach also addresses recommendations by 
the National Research Council that BLM should 
continue to use performance-based standards. 

The Alternative 3 standards incorporate 
existing policy and practices into a 
comprehensive set of regulations that give more 
consistency. Alternative 3 does the following: 

• Addresses the issue that BLM should 
consider ways to balance environmental 
protection with mineral development and not 
increase the regulatory burden on operators. 

• Addresses comments by operators that BLM 
offices vary too much in applying existing 
regulations and policies. 

• Incorporates the concept of preventing 
substantial irreparable harm to significant 
resources within the definition of unnecessary 
or undue degradation. This new definition 



responds to comments and the NRC 
conclusion that BLM should better protect 
the most significant resources on public lands 
from any impact. 

Alternative 4 proposes standards that would 
address two common comments: ( 1 ) the need 
for increased environmental protection from 
mining and (2) the need for minimum national 
design standards for exploration, mining, and 
reclamation. The performance standards in 
Alternative 4 would require more stringent 
levels of environmental protection, coupled 
with design requirements, to attain those stated 
levels of protection. 

Alternative 5 addresses the comments that 
NRC did not recommend more performance 
standards in its report. Alternative 5 therefore 
retains the performance standards in the 
existing regulations. 

Financial Assurance 



(Bonding) 



BLM received many comments on the 
adequacy of financial assurance requirements, 
generally referred to as bonding, and what these 
requirements should cover. Typically, bonding 
is required as a compliance tool to ensure that 
the required reclamation is performed should 
the operator be unable or unwilling to do so. 
With the recent district court case on BLM's 
1997 bonding regulations, and the NRC report, 
the issue of reclamation bonding is even more 
relevant today than when the regulation revision 
process began. Alternatives for addressing the 
issue of bonding have been developed in 
response to comments. 

Alternative 1 uses the existing regulations 
(those in effect before the February 1997 
revisions) that give BLM the discretion to 
require reclamation bonding for Plan-level 
operations, with no set minimum or limit on the 
amount. Notice-level operations are not bonded. 
Alternative 1 addresses the comments that 
bonds should be held for larger operations or 
for operations in sensitive areas, where the risk 
is greatest. At the same time Alternative 1 



31 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



addresses the comment that small-mine 
operators or persons engaged in exploration 
should be exempt from the bonding 
requirements because of the burden that 
bonding presents to the small operator and the 
small amount of surface that small operations 
disturb. 

Alternative 2 provides for no reclamation 
bonding by BLM. Financial assurances would 
be required according to state requirements. 
This provision addresses the comment that 
bonding by BLM duplicates most bonding 
required under state programs and is not 
needed. 

Alternative 3 requires bonding at the actual 
cost of the reclamation for all Notice- and Plan- 
level operations and would allow the public 
comment before final bond release. Bonding 
would include costs for interim stabilization and 
for post-reclamation treatment or maintenance 
such as water treatment, safety berms, and 
fencing. This provision addresses the public 
comments and NRC recommendation that all 
disturbances, no matter what size, should be 
fully bonded to protect the public. 

Alternative 3 allows states to administer the 
bonding program to address the comment that 
BLM bonding duplicates state requirements and 
may impose an unneeded burden on operators. 
But BLM would have to agree to the bond 
amount and release. 

Alternative 3 would also phase out the use 
of corporate guarantees as a form of financial 
assurance. This provision addresses comments 
that corporate guarantees are not secure if an 
operator files for bankruptcy and NRC's 
conclusion that financial assurance mechanisms 
should be secure. 

Alternative 4 also requires that all 
operations be fully bonded for reclamation but 
further requires that added bond be posted for 
cleanup or remediation of unplanned events 
such as spills or failures. Alternative 4 
addresses the comment that bonding solely for 
nonperformance of reclamation is not adequate 
but that bonding should be used to correct 
environmental damage from unplanned events. 

Alternative 5 is basically the same as 
Alternative 3 in that all operations greater than 



casual use would be bonded for the full 
estimated cost of reclamation. Alternative 5 
addresses comments that the regulations for 
bonding should be changed only in accordance 
with NRC's recommendations. Therefore, 
Alternative 5 does not include the procedural 
requirements for public notice on bond release, 
which are in Alternative 3. 

Enforcement and Penalties 

Alternative 1 provides administrative 
procedures, such as notices of noncompliance 
and possible court action, for unresolved 
noncompliance. This alternative responds to 
comments that enforcement is not a large 
problem and that BLM does not need new 
enforcement regulations because the states can 
handle existing problems. 

Alternative 2 addresses the comments that 
BLM should leave most enforcement actions up 
to the states, eliminating a potentially 
duplicative process. 

Alternative 3 would give BLM more 
enforcement tools, such as suspension and 
revocation authority and discretionary 
administrative penalties. This provision 
addresses three comments: 

• BLM needs its own enforcement program for 
public lands rather than having to rely on 
going directly to court. 

• A federal program is needed because some 
states are not always pursuing enforcement 
actions. 

• NRC's recommendation that BLM should be 
able to issue administrative penalties for 
violations of its rules. 

Alternative 4 provides more enforcement 
provisions than Alternative 3 by making 
administrative penalties mandatory, not subject 
to agency discretion, and by establishing permit 
blocks for noncompliance. This provision 
responds to those who feel that state 
enforcement programs are not strong enough 
and want a federal enforcement program with 
mandatory action required by BLM for 
noncompliance. 



32 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Like Alternative 3, Alternative 5 would 
address enforcement and penalties but would 
not cite criminal penalties because NRC did not 
recommend such penalties. Alternative 5 
addresses comments that BLM limit any 
regulation change to just the NRC 
recommendations. 

NRC Report Consistency 

Congress directed that BLM could expend 
funds to finalize the proposed 3809 regulations 
during fiscal year 2000 only on final regulations 
that are "not inconsistent" with the 
recommendations in the NRC report. BLM 
considers that this requirement prohibits it from 
developing and selecting a final regulation 
alternative that would contradict or oppose a 
NRC recommendation during fiscal year 2000. 
Where NRC is silent on an aspect of the 
existing regulations, BLM-proposed changes 
would not be inconsistent with any NRC 
recommendations. In response to this 
requirement, BLM has modified Alternative 3, 
the proposed regulations, not to be inconsistent 
with the NRC recommendations. 

Others have commented that the 
congressional requirement allows BLM to make 
only the regulation changes recommended by 
NRC and that any change in the regulations 
outside those recommended would be 
inconsistent with the NRC report. Alternative 5 
has been developed to address this view. 

Alternative 1-retention of the existing 
regulations-would be inconsistent with the 
NRC recommendations, but would not conflict 
with congressional requirements. Congress did 
not require BLM to change the regulations, 
only that should BLM make changes, they 
could not be inconsistent with NRC's 
recommendations. 

Likewise, Alternative 2 would be 
inconsistent with the NRC recommendations 
because it would lessen many of the filing, 
bonding, and operating requirements in direct 
contradiction to many NRC recommendations. 

Alternative 4 is also inconsistent with the 
NRC recommendations. Eliminating the Notice 



provisions and applying design-based 
performance standards would impose 
requirements much greater than those 
recommended by NRC as needed to protect the 
public lands. 

Although Alternatives 1 , 2, and 4 are not 
consistent with the NRC recommendations, 
they remain feasible alternatives. They address 
the program issues of concern to the public and 
could still be selected for implementing once 
the congressional limits on the contents of the 
final regulations expire. 

Regulations Common 
to All Alternatives 

Under all alternatives, national 
environmental protection laws and regulations 
apply to activities conducted under the Mining 
Law on BLM-managed lands. In addition, 
although local and state governments cannot 
impose land use planning or zoning restrictions 
on a federal land use such as mining, they can 
regulate how mineral activities are conducted. 
All of the western states have developed mining 
regulations that apply to activities on BLM- 
managed lands. As a result, mineral exploration 
and development are subject to compliance with 
a variety of local, state, and federal 
environmental laws and rules independent of 
any requirements imposed by the 3809 
regulations. For example, major environmental 
laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air 
Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory 
Bird Treaty Act, the Resource Conservation and 
Recovery Act, and the Archaeological 
Resources Protection Act apply to mineral 
activities under all of the alternatives. 

Appendix C lists other applicable 
requirements, laws, or reviews. Appendix D 
discusses state programs that govern mineral 
projects under all alternatives. On this backdrop 
of other existing laws, regulations, and 
programs, and state regulatory programs, BLM 
considers the alternatives for applying the 3809 
regulations. 



33 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Description of the 
Alternatives 

This section describes in detail the five 
alternatives (including the Proposed Action and 
the No Action alternatives) that this EIS 
considers. Alternative 1 (Existing Regulations, 
No Action) would have BLM continue to use 
the existing 3809 regulations. Alternative 2 
(State Management) would remove BLM from 
routine regulation of mineral activities and rely 
exclusively on the state programs to regulate 
mineral activities on BLM-managed lands. 
Alternative 3 (Proposed Action) contains 
BLM's proposed regulations, as revised after 
public comment. This alternative constitutes the 
BLM's Preferred Alternative. Alternative 4 



(Maximum Protection) would increase the level 
of environmental protection and impose a 
design-oriented regulatory approach led by 
BLM. Alternative 5 (NRC Regulations) would 
change the regulations only where the NRC 
report recommends changes. 

The five alternatives are described below in 
detail. Specific regulation language has not 
been drafted for Alternatives 2, 4 or 5. Should 
any of these alternatives be selected for 
implementation, BLM would prepare 
regulations to incorporate the concepts of the 
alternative. Following the detailed alternative 
descriptions is a discussion on the 
implementation costs for each alternative and a 
summary table (Table 2-1) that compares the 
major provisions of each alternative. 



34 



Alternative! Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 1: Existing 
Regulations (No Action) 

Alternative 1 would continue to use the 
existing surface management regulations at 43 
CFR 3809 (Appendix A). These are essentially 
the same regulations that have been in effect 
since 1981. Over the years BLM has developed 
policy documents, manuals, and handbooks that 
give guidance on how the regulations are to be 
implemented. The following is a description of 
the existing regulations by major provision, 
along with a discussion of how BLM field 
offices are implementing the program. 

Unnecessary or Undue Degradation 
Definition 

The existing regulations require operators 
to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of 
the public lands. Unnecessary or undue 
degradation (1) recognizes that locatable 
mineral activities cause environmental impacts 
and (2) seeks to keep those impacts at the 
minimal level needed for the operator to 
conduct activities as authorized under the 
mining laws. As defined in the existing 
regulations, unnecessary or undue degradation 
requires operators to do the following: 

• Create no surface disturbance greater than 
would normally result from a prudent 
operator's performing the activity. 

• Consider the effects of operations on other 
resources and land uses. 

• Begin and complete reasonable mitigating 
measures, including the reclaiming of 
disturbed areas. 

• Not create a nuisance. 

• Comply with environmental statutes and 
regulations. 

Project Area Definition 

The existing regulations define a project 
area as a single tract of land upon which 
operations are conducted. The project area 
includes disturbance from building or 
maintaining roads, powerlines, pipelines, or 
other means of access. The definition specifies 



that the project area may include one or more 
mining claims under the same ownership. But 
in practice the project area often includes 
claims under multiple ownerships or may 
involve no claims if the land is open to activity 
under the Mining Law. BLM uses the working 
definition that the project area is the contiguous 
part of the same operation under the operator's 
control and includes disturbance for support 
facilities such as access roads, powerlines, or 
pipelines. 

Public Lands/Federal Lands 
Definition 

The definition of public lands determines to 
what lands the 3809 regulations apply. The 
existing regulations apply only to BLM- 
administered surface where the underlying 
mineral estate is subject to operations under the 
Mining Law. The existing regulations do not 
apply to lands where only the mineral estate is 
federal and the surface estate is privately 
owned, such as lands patented under the Stock 
Raising Homestead Act. Nor do the regulations 
apply to land whose surface estate is managed 
by BLM but whose mineral estate is privately 
owned. Locatable mineral activities on 
wilderness study areas (WSAs) administered by 
BLM are not regulated under the 3809 
regulations but by subpart 3802, which is not 
part of this rulemaking. 

Often locatable mineral operations occur on 
a mixture of private lands and BLM- 
administered lands. In these cases the 3809 
regulations apply only to activities on the public 
lands. But if any associated environmental 
analysis is conducted under the National 
Environmental Policy Act, the analysis must 
consider the environmental impacts of the BLM 
approval on all lands, regardless of ownership. 

Disturbance Categories and 
Thresholds 

The existing 3809 regulations are based on 
three administrative classifications of surface- 
disturbing activities on public lands: casual use, 
Notices, and Plans of Operations. 



35 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative! Description 



Casual Use. Casual use refers to activities 
that only negligibly disturb public lands and 
resources. Casual use generally does not 
include the use of mechanized earth-moving 
equipment, explosives, or motorized equipment 
in areas closed to off-road vehicles. Some BLM 
field offices have considered the use of small 
suction dredges or portable drills to be casual 
use. 

Operators engaged in casual use do not 
have to notify BLM of their activities, and 
BLM does not have to approve their operations. 
Casual use operations, however, are subject to 
monitoiing by BLM to ensure against 
unnecessary or undue degradation. Disturbance 
created under casual use must still be 
reclaimed. 

Notices. Activities that exceed casual use 
but disturb 5 acres or less during any calender 
year can be conducted under Notices unless 
special status areas are involved. A Notice is 
often used for exploration involving road 
building or drilling. Small mines can also 
operate under Notices. Notice-level activities 
may begin after a brief review by BLM for 
potential resource conflicts that would result in 
unnecessary or undue degradation. All 
disturbance created under Notices must be 
reclaimed. No more than 5 acres may remain 
unreclaimed at any given time, or the operator 
must obtain an approved Plan of Operations. 
Variations exist among BLM offices as to when 
reclamation is considered complete for 
determining acreage. One interpretation is that 
acres that have been graded and seeded are not 
counted, whereas other offices require 
reestablishing vegetation cover for acres that 
are not to be counted. 

Plans of Operations. An approved Plan of 
Operations is required for surface disturbance 
that exceeds 5 acres, or for any surface- 
disturbing activity exceeding casual use in 
special status areas such as the following: 

• The California Desert Conservation Area. 

• Areas within or potential additions to the 
National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. 

• Areas of critical environmental concern 
(ACECs). 



• BLM-administered areas in the National 
Wilderness Preservation System. 

• Areas closed to off-road vehicle use. 

Claim Validity and Valid Existing 
Rights 

The existing 3809 regulations do not 
address mining claim validity. In fact, the 
Mining Law does not require operators to have 
a mining claim or mill site before conducting 
operations on BLM lands. If the lands are open 
to locatable mineral activity under the Mining 
Law, operators do not need a mining claim to 
conduct operations. 

On lands segregated or withdrawn from 
locatable mineral activity under the Mining 
Law, only in wilderness areas do the regulations 
(43 CFR 8560) require that mining claims be 
examined for validity before BLM approves 
Plans of Operations. In other segregated or 
withdrawn areas BLM can conduct validity 
examinations before processing Notices or 
approving Plans. But the time needed to 
complete the exam exceeds the 15-day Notice 
review time frame and would probably exceed 
the time needed for review and approval of a 
Plan of Operations. BLM can withhold 
authorization for Plans pending completion of a 
validity examination if a question arises as to a 
claim's validity. 

Common Variety Minerals 

Whether the mineral to be mined under a 
Notice or Plan is locatable under the Mining 
Law or saleable under the Materials Sales Act 
may be disputed. The existing 3809 regulations 
do not address this situation. The existing 
regulations (43 CFR 3610) prohibit the sale of 
mineral materials from mining claims even with 
agreement of the mining claimant. 

The working policy has been (1) to process 
the Notice or Plan of Operations under the 3809 
regulations and (2) to establish an escrow 
account. In this account the operator has to 
deposit monies representing potential fair 
market value should the mined material be 
found not to be locatable and such monies are 
owed the government. When BLM completes a 



36 



Alternative 1 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



common varieties determination (often a 
lengthy process), the escrowed royalty from 
ongoing operations is either returned to the 
operator or paid to the government. If the 
determination finds that the mineral is of 
common variety, BLM then converts the 3809 
authorization to a material sale contract. 

State-Federal Coordination 

The existing 3809 regulations state that the 
rules do not preempt state laws and regulations 
governing operations on federal lands. The 
most protective regulatory provision usually 
applies. Appendix D summarizes state 
regulatory programs. 

The existing regulations also allow BLM to 
enter into agreements with the states for joint 
regulatory program administration to prevent 
unnecessary or undue degradation and to 
eliminate duplication. Wherever possible, the 
agreements can allow state administration and 
enforcement of the program. 

Under the existing regulations BLM has 
developed joint agreements for regulating 
operations in all of the western states except 
Arizona. Arizona and BLM are working on 
developing an agreement. 

In states with laws similar to the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-California, 
Montana, and Washington-BLM has based 
decisions on the environmental analysis 
prepared under both state and federal laws in 
consultation with state regulatory agencies. In 
other states that do not have statutes analogous 
to NEPA, BLM invites state and local agencies 
to participate in preparing environmental 
assessments and EISs, often designating state 
and local agencies as formal cooperating 
agencies. 

Existing Operations 

When the existing regulations went into 
effect in 1981, operations in existence were 
allowed to continue but were required to file 
either Notices or Plans of Operations, 
depending on the size of disturbance. Notice- 
level operations were required to file a Notice 
within 30 days of the effective date of the 



regulations. Operators required to file a Plan of 
Operations had to do so within 120 days but 
could obtain an extension of 180 more days. All 
operators required to file in 1981 have either 
done so or are no longer active. 

Notice and Plan of Operations 
Content and Processing 

Notices. No standard form is required for 
Notices, but Notices must adequately describe 
the activities that would occur and state that all 
disturbed areas will be reclaimed to the 
standards of the regulations. The operator must 
give the Notice to BLM at least 15 calendar 
days before beginning operations. BLM must 
complete its review of the Notice within 15 
calendar days of receiving the complete Notice. 

BLM's review of Notices is not a federal 
action, so no environmental documentation 
must be prepared under the National 
Environmental Policy Act. But a variety of 
BLM specialists do review Notices to determine 
if operations would cause unnecessary or undue 
degradation. The BLM minerals specialist 
reviews Notices to ensure that they are 
complete and that Plans of Operations are not 
needed. After the first review, other resource 
specialists conduct an interdisciplinary review 
of Notices for potential resource conflicts that 
would cause unnecessary or undue degradation. 

The standards for reviewing Notices under 
the existing regulations and policy are as 
follow: 

• Access routes must be planned for only the 
minimum width needed for operations and 
must follow natural contours, where 
practicable, to minimize cuts and fills. 

• All tailings, dumps, and deleterious 
substances and other waste produced by 
operations must be disposed of to prevent 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

• At the earliest feasible time, operators must 
reclaim areas disturbed by taking reasonable 
measures to prevent or control on- and off- 
site damage to public lands. 

• Reclamation must include saving topsoil to 
apply to the land's surface after disturbed 



37 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative! Description 



areas have been reshaped; taking measures to 
control erosion, landslides, and water runoff 
and to locate, control, and remove toxic 
materials; reshaping the disturbed area; 
applying topsoil; re vegetating disturbed 
areas; and rehabilitating fisheries and wildlife 
habitat. 
Other items are also reviewed: 

• Verifying land status. 

• Checking to ensure that the area is open to 
the Mining Law. 

• Determining whether the operation would 
disturb 5 acres or less during a calendar year. 

• Determining if the proposal covers the same 
ground as previous operations under another 
Notice. 

• Recognizing potential conflicts with 
threatened and endangered species or cultural 
and paleontological resources. 

• Recognizing potential compliance problems 
with state and federal laws. Often BLM 
inspects project areas with operators to detect 
and address areas of concern before 
disturbance. 

Having reviewed the Notice, BLM informs 
the operator that public lands would or would 
not be unnecessarily or unduly degraded. This 
notification includes any changes and 
recommendations the operator needs to follow 
to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation 
and a statement reminding the operator that a 
final inspection of the reclaimed area is 
required. 

Plans of Operations. No standard form is 
required for filing Plans of Operations. The 
operator must submit information, such as 
operator name and mailing address, a map or 
sketch of the operation, and enough information 
to describe the proposed operation and the 
reclamation measures to be used. BLM has 30 
days to review a Plan of Operation and either 
approve it or advise the operator of the 
following: 

• Of any other information needed to evaluate 
the Plan. 



• Of measures required to prevent unnecessary 
or undue degradation. 

• That more time, not to exceed 60 days, is 
needed for BLM to review the project. 

If the Plan of Operations requires preparing 
an EIS, Section 7 consultation under the 
Endangered Species Act, or Section 106 
compliance under the National Historic 
Preservation Act, then the review time is not 
limited. 

A decision on a Plan of Operations is a 
federal action requiring analysis under the 
National Environmental Policy Act. The 
environmental analysis may be accomplished 
by several means. An environmental assessment 
(EA) or an EIS is the most common document 
prepared for approval of new or modified Plans 
of Operations. 

The EA is used to determine if the 
operations would significantly affect the 
environment. If no significant impacts are 
found, a finding of no significant impacts and 
decision record (FONSI/DR) are prepared, and 
BLM approves the project if it would not create 
unnecessary or undue degradation. Operations 
that would cause significant impacts require 
preparing an EIS. (More guidance on elements 
that could trigger an EIS can be found in 
Department of the Interior Manual 516 DM 6, 
Appendix 5.) 

A draft EIS is prepared to disclose potential 
impacts and consider mitigation measures. The 
public and other agencies then review the EIS. 
After a final EIS is written, BLM prepares a 
record of decision (ROD), subject to 
requirements to prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation. The amount of time to prepare an 
EA or EIS and approve a Plan is determined by 
the complexity of issues and expected impacts 
of the project. Time frames can be as short as 
several days or extend for more than 5 years for 
large projects. 

The technical issues involved in approving 
a Plan of Operations for large open pit and 
underground mines have become increasingly 
complicated. BLM has adopted policies to 
address such issues as the water quality of pit 



38 



Alternative 1 Description 



Chapter Z - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



lakes, acid rock drainage, cyanide use, 
migratory bird deaths, reclamation and 
chemical closure, and mine dewatering. To 
standardize methods for addressing these issues 
BLM has developed the acid rock drainage 
policy, cyanide management policy, and BLM 
Reclamation Handbook. In addition, the 43 
CFR 3715 Surface Occupancy Regulations 
address occupancy issues for nonmining surface 
use. BLM state offices such as Nevada have 
also adopted reclamation revegetation standard 
guidance and a water resource policy to further 
implement the national policy direction. 

Modifications 

Operators can modify Plans of Operations 
at BLM's request. BLM must review and 
approve a significant modification of an 
approved Plan just as it would the initial Plan. 

BLM can require a modification only after 
the BLM state director determines (1) that the 
reasons for the modification were unforeseen at 
the time of the initial Plan approval and (2) that 
the modification is essential for preventing 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

Temporary or Permanent Closure 

Reclamation is required. No time frame is 
specified for completing reclamation or for the 
time during which an operation may be 
temporarily closed before undergoing final 
reclamation. 

Performance Standards 

General. The existing regulation's overall 
performance standard is to prevent unnecessary 
or undue degradation. To comply with this 
standard, operators must do the following: 

• Cause no impacts beyond those considered 
due and necessary. 

• Reclaim disturbed land. 

• Comply with all local, state, or federal 
environmental laws and regulations. 

During individual project review BLM 
develops specific requirements for preventing 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 



Land Use Plans. The existing regulations 
do not address the relationship of exploration 
and mining to land use planning. Land use 
plans may give information on resources 
requiring consideration by operators. BLM uses 
land use plans-such as resource management 
plans-to name special status areas that require 
Plans of Operations instead of Notices, such as 
areas of critical environmental concern. The 
land use plan also determines where BLM 
would seek withdrawals of lands from operation 
of the Mining Law. But if the land is open to 
mineral entry, the existing 3809 regulations, not 
a particular land use plan, establish 
performance standards for operations. 

Surface and Ground Water Protection. 
All operators must comply with federal and 
state water quality standards. National Pollution 
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) 
permits are required from the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA) or a state-delegated 
authority by EPA for a discharge to surface 
water. In addition, some states require discharge 
permits for ground water. 

Lakes that form in mine pits are generally 
not regulated under the NPDES system. In 
some states if the pit lake discharges to ground 
water, a permit may be required. BLM uses 
predictive modeling to estimate pit lake 
geochemistry and potential toxicity. Pit lakes 
found to be potentially toxic must be treated, 
eliminated, or restricted from access. 

The existing regulations do not specify 
requirements for plugging drill holes. Field 
offices have been requiring plugging in 
response either to state requirements or to site- 
specific ground water concerns. 

Wetlands and Riparian Area Protection. 
The existing regulations do not specify 
protection of wetland or riparian areas but 
require wildlife and fisheries habitat to be 
rehabilitated. Rehabilitating these habitats does 
add some protection to wetland and riparian 
areas. Section 404 permits, required by the 
Army Coips Engineers for dredging or filling in 
waters of the United States, provide for 
mitigating impacts to jurisdictional wetlands. 

Soil or Growth Media Handling. The 
existing regulations require that operations save 



39 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative! Description 



and reapply topsoil to disturbed areas where 
reasonable and practicable after reshaping 
disturbed land. The existing regulations do not 
specify requirements for segregating or 
preserving topsoil. 

Revegetation Requirements. The existing 
regulations require revegetation of disturbed 
areas where reasonable and practicable. 
Revegetation must provide a diverse vegetation 
cover. Common practice is for most BLM field 
offices to review the operator's proposed 
seedmix. Revegetation is also a part of the 
requirement to rehabilitate wildlife habitat. The 
requirement in the definition of "unnecessary or 
undue degradation" not to create a nuisance is 
used to address noxious weed control. 

Fish and Wildlife Protection and Habitat 
Restoration. The existing regulations require 
operators to act to prevent harm to threatened 
and endangered species and their habitats that 
might be affected by operations. An 
unmitigatable impact to a threatened or 
endangered species is one of the few resource 
conflicts that can prevent a Plan of Operations 
from being approved or a Notice-level 
operation from proceeding. 

The existing regulations require that 
reclamation include rehabilitating fisheries and 
wildlife habitat. The regulations do not specify 
a time frame for achieving rehabilitation. 

Protecting Cultural Resources. A 
Decision on a Plan of Operations requires BLM 
to follow the process in Section 106 of the 
National Historic Preservation Act to develop 
mitigation for cultural resources recognized 
before a Plan is approved. Since a Notice is not 
a federal undertaking, the Section 106 process 
does not apply. But BLM field offices review 
Notices and often visit project areas, instructing 
operators on avoiding cultural resources. 

The existing regulations state that operators 
cannot knowingly disturb, alter, injure, or 
destroy any historical or archaeological site, 
structure, building, object, or cultural site 
discovered during operations. If a significant 
discovery is made during operations, the 
regulations require operators to immediately 
notify BLM and to leave such discovery intact. 
BLM has 10 working days to protect or remove 



the discovery at the government's expense, after 
which operations may proceed. 

Protecting Paleontological Resources. The 
existing 3809 regulations do not contain a 
process for inventory and evaluation of 
paleontological resources like the procedures 
for cultural resources under the National 
Historic Preservation Act. The existing 
regulations state that operators cannot 
knowingly disturb, alter, injure, or destroy any 
scientifically important paleontological remains. 
Operators must immediately notify BLM of any 
paleontological resources discovered during 
operations and leave such discoveries intact. 
BLM has 10 working days to protect or remove 
the discovery at the government's expense, after 
which operations may proceed. 

Protecting Cave Resources. The existing 
regulations do not specify performance 
standards for protecting cave resources. When 
operations would potentially harm cave 
resources, BLM considers them under the 
general requirements to prevent unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 

Protecting American Indian Traditional 
Cultural Values, Practices, and Resources. 
The existing regulations do not specify 
performance standards for protecting American 
Indian traditional cultural values, practices, and 
resources. Often these resources are also 
historic properties that must be considered 
under the National Historic Preservation Act 
(NHPA). But NHPA does not prevent the 
disturbance of cultural resources. Rather, it 
provides a process for considering potential 
impacts and developing mitigation. 

BLM must also consult with American 
Indians under other acts such as American 
Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA). 
Consultation does not preclude the activity but 
allows discussion for developing mitigation. 
BLM has extensively consulted with American 
Indians on mine projects, and American Indians 
have often said that impacts to traditional 
cultural values, practices, and resources cannot 
be mitigated. 

Roads and Structures. The existing 
regulations require an operator to do the 
following: 



40 



Alternative 1 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



• Minimize surface disturbance. 

• Use existing access where practical. 

• Maintain safe design. 

• Follow natural contours. 

• Minimize cuts and fills. 

Operators must consult with BLM for 
roadcuts greater than 3 feet on the inside edge. 
All structures must be built and maintained 
according to state and local codes. Placing 
structures is addressed in separate rules at 43 
CFR3715. 

Handling of Potentially Acid-Forming, 
Toxic, or Other Deleterious Materials. The 
existing regulations state that reclamation must 
include measures to isolate, remove, or control 
toxic or deleterious materials. BLM imposes 
other requirements in response to the site- 
specific review when processing a Notice or 
Plan. 

In the past decade more deeper, sulfide- 
bearing ores have been mined. As a result, acid 
rock drainage (ARD) has become an issue of 
concern for BLM when reviewing mining 
proposals. In 1992 BLM issued its acid rock 
drainage policy (Instruction Memorandum 96- 
79). This policy directs field offices to do the 
following: 

• Review mining proposals for ARD potential. 

• Require rock characterization. 

• Emphasize source control of potentially acid- 
generating materials rather than treating 
effluent. 

• Inspect operations at least quarterly. 

Leaching and Processing Operations and 
Impoundments. The existing regulations do 
not refer to cyanide or other chemicals used in 
mineral processing or leaching. The regulations 
do require that reclamation include measures to 
isolate, remove, or control toxic or deleterious 
materials. BLM develops mineral leaching 
requirements during site-specific reviews while 
processing Notices and Plans. 

In response to the increase in cyanide use 
on BLM-managed lands, BLM issued a cyanide 
management policy (Instruction Memorandum 
90-566) in 1990. The policy guides field offices 



in managing cyanide operations by requiring 
BLM state offices to prepare cyanide 
management plans and by setting minimum 
standards for cyanide facility design, wildlife 
protection, monitoring, and quarterly agency 
inspections. 

Stability, Grading, and Erosion Control. 
The existing regulations require reclamation to 
include reshaping disturbed areas where 
reasonably practicable and using measures to 
control erosion, landslides, and water runoff. A 
required slope angle or outcome is not specified 
for reshaping. 

Pit Backfilling and Reclamation. The 
existing regulations do not specifically address 
mine pit backfilling but require that disturbed 
areas be reshaped "where reasonably 
practicable." The existing regulations also allow 
a stable highwall to be left where required to 
preserve evidence of mineralization but do not 
mention a time frame. 

BLM field offices have dealt with pit 
backfilling on a project- specific basis, usually 
negotiating with operators for mitigation where 
backfilling a pit mine is uneconomic or 
infeasible. Sometimes offsite mitigation 
compensates for habitat lost to mining pits. 
Occasionally BLM has determined that 
backfilling is practical and has required partial 
backfilling or backfilling at sequential open pit 
mines. 

Financial Guarantees (Bonding) 

The existing regulations require reclamation 
bonds only for Plan-level operations with the 
amount left to BLM's discretion. No financial 
guarantees or reclamation bonding is required 
for Notice-level operations (except for Notice- 
level operators with records of noncompliance). 

BLM has implemented several policies for 
bonding. Recently, reclamation bonds were 
limited to $1,000 per acre for exploration 
disturbance and $2,000 per acre for mining 
disturbance, except for cyanide facilities or 
portions of operations with acid rock drainage 
potential, which were to be bonded at actual 
cost. The instruction memorandum that 
established the aforementioned bonding policy 



41 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative! Description 



has expired, but some BLM field offices may 
still implement it. 

As part of state-federal coordination, 
operations are bonded in cooperation with the 
state regulatory agencies to prevent double 
bonding of operators. Bonding varies from state 
to state. For example, in Nevada BLM holds the 
bond for the State of Nevada. In Montana the 
state holds the bond for operations on BLM 
lands. 

Inspection and Monitoring 

BLM develops monitoring programs while 
reviewing Notices and Plans of Operations. The 
operator conducts environmental testing (water, 
air, soil, etc.) and submits the results to BLM. 
BLM may take samples during inspections to 
verify that the monitoring data is reliable. 

Operators must allow BLM to inspect 
operations to determine compliance. Current 
policy is for inspections four times annually 
where cyanide is used or where a significant 
potential exists for acid rock drainage, and two 
inspections per year for all other active 
operations. 

BLM works with operators when they are 
not complying with federal and state laws and 
regulations. If these cooperative efforts yield no 
results, BLM issues a notice of noncompliance. 
If the operator still fails to comply, BLM may 
take other measures: 

• Requesting help from federal or state 
regulatory agencies. 

• Issuing records of noncompliance. 

• Forwarding the case to the Department of the 
Interior Regional Solicitor and the Justice 
Department. 

Penalties for Noncompliance 

Under policy developed for the existing 
regulations, if an operator does not comply with 



a notice of noncompliance, BLM may establish 
a record of noncompliance. Operators with 
records of noncompliance must ( 1 ) file Plans of 
Operations for activities that would otherwise 
be conducted under Notices and (2) post a 
reclamation bond with BLM even if they have 
already posted a bond with the state. In other 
cases the courts may forbid unlawful activities 
and impose penalties for damages or violations 
of the 3809 regulations and the Federal Land 
Policy and Management Act. 

Appeals Process 

The existing regulations contain two 
processes by which BLM decisions may be 
appealed, depending on whether the operator or 
another party is appealing. All appeals must be 
filed within 30 days of a decision. 

Operators that are adversely affected and 
want to appeal must appeal to the BLM state 
director. The state director then decides on the 
appeal. Operators adversely affected by a state 
director's decision may appeal that decision to 
the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). 
Anyone other than the operator that is adversely 
affected may appeal BLM's decisions directly 
to IBLA. BLM's decision is in full force and 
effect during an appeal before either the state 
director or IBLA. A stay from the effect of the 
decision may be granted while the appeal is 
pending. 

State directors usually make decisions on 
appeals within several weeks or months. 
Appeals to IBLA take much longer. The current 
backlog in IBLA for a routine appeal is about 3 
years. IBLA usually responds to requests for 
stays within 6 months. If IBLA grants a case 
expedited consideration, it may decide the case 
in less than a year. 



42 



Alternative 2 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 2: State 
Management 

Under Alternative 2 BLM would defer 
regulating exploration and mining to the states. 
The 3809 regulations would define unnecessary 
or undue degradation to mean failure to meet 
all local, state, and federal laws and regulations 
for conducting exploration and mining. 
(Appendix D summarizes state regulatory 
programs.) BLM would develop no other rules. 

BLM would neither review nor approve of 
any specific project. Nor would any federal 
decision or undertaking be subject to National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review or 
compliance with Section 106 of the National 
Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Although 
they would still have to comply with federal 
laws such as the Clean Water Act and 
Endangered Species Act, mineral operations 
would not be regulated by BLM. 

In accord with the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act (FLPMA), BLM would 
continue to prepare land use plans to determine 
areas to be opened or closed to operations under 
the Mining Law through the withdrawal 
process. State regulators could also use land use 
plans for information on special management 
concerns in areas open to operations. BLM 
would continue to process mineral withdrawals 
and examine mining claims for validity to meet 
its land management objectives. But BLM 
would not be involved in day-to-day regulation 
of operations. 

Unnecessary or Undue Degradation 
Definition 

The 3809 regulations would define 
unnecessary or undue degradation to require 
only that the operator meet all local, state, and 
federal laws and regulations. Compliance with 
state programs for regulating mining would be 
considered adequate for preventing unnecessary 
or undue degradation as required by FLPMA. 



Project Area Definition 

Project areas would be defined according to 
state programs. Any exclusive use of access 
roads, powerlines, pipelines, etc. would require 
rights-of-way from BLM. 

Federal Lands Definition 

The definition of federal lands would not 
change. 

Disturbance Categories and 
Thresholds 

The disturbance categories used under the 
existing regulations would not apply under 
Alternative 2 because operators would not have 
to file Notices or Plans with BLM. BLM would 
have no category or threshold classification. 
The state would be responsible for all 
permitting of activities on BLM lands under 
state categories. 

Claim Validity and Valid Existing 
Rights 

Claim validity and valid existing rights 
under Alternative 2 would not change from the 
existing regulations. BLM would exercise its 
option of examining a mining claim when 
needed to protect resources. 

Common Variety Minerals 

The existing regulations would not change 
for common variety minerals. BLM would 
require an operator suspected of mining 
common variety minerals to place possible fair 
market value in escrow until after BLM 
completes a common variety determination. 
BLM might seek a court order to stop 
operations if the monies are not escrowed. 

State-Federal Coordination 

States would regulate all mineral activity on 
BLM lands. BLM would periodically evaluate 
the state program to determine if it is 
preventing undue or unnecessary degradation. 



43 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 2 Description 



BLM would also continue to use the land use 
planning and withdrawal process to decide 
which areas are open or closed to mining. BLM 
would give comments and input to states during 
their review and approval process for activity 
on BLM-administered lands. BLM's role would 
be that of a land owner. 

Existing Operations 

Existing activity would continue according 
to state requirements. 

Notice and Plan of Operations 
Content and Processing 

Operators would submit no Notices or 
Plans of Operations to BLM for review or 
approval but would follow state program 
requirements for content and processing of 
activities. BLM would not process applications, 
conduct project-level National Environmental 
Policy Act analysis, or make decisions. As a 
potentially affected landowner, BLM might 
give the states comments on individual actions. 

Modifications 

Modifications made to operations would be 
required, reviewed, and approved according to 
individual state requirements. 

Temporary or Permanent Closure 

Closure requirements and time frames 
would be determined by state regulations. 
Operations abandoned under a state program 
might be eligible for reclamation under the 
BLM abandoned mine lands program. 

Performance Standards 

General. Performance standards would be 
based on state standards and requirements. The 
state standards for air, water, wildlife, 
reclamation, and other resources would be the 
controlling standards for operations on public 
lands. Other federal requirements such as the 
Endangered Species Act would continue to 
apply under the administration of the 
responsible federal agency. 



Land Use Plans. BLM would retain all 
responsibility for preparing land use plans, 
designating special status areas, and 
determining areas open or closed to the 
operation of the Mining Law. 

Surface and Ground Water Protection. 
All activities would be conducted according to 
state and federal water quality laws or the state 
program delegated under the Clean Water Act. 

Wetlands and Riparian Area Protection. 
Operators would have to comply with state 
requirements and obtain permits from the Army 
Corps of Engineers for dredging or filling in 
waters of the United States under Section 404 
of the Clean Water Act. 

Soil or Growth Media Handling. Topsoil 
would have to be salvaged and reapplied 
according to state standards. 

Revegetation Requirements. Disturbed 
areas would have to be revegetated according to 
state standards. 

Fish and Wildlife Protection and Habitat 
Restoration. Operations would have to meet 
state standards for protecting fish and wildlife. 
The taking of a threatened or endangered 
species or migratory birds would still be 
prohibited under the Endangered Species and 
Migratory Bird Treaty Acts. 

Protecting Cultural Resources. 
Operations would have to meet state standards 
for protecting cultural resources. 

Protecting Paleontological Resources. 
Operations would have to meet state standards 
for protecting paleontological resources. 

Protecting Cave Resources. Operations 
would have to meet state standards for 
protecting cave resources. 

Protecting American Indian Traditional 
Cultural Values, Practices, and Resources. 
State standards for protecting American Indian 
traditional cultural values, practices, and 
resources would have to be met. American 
Indians could request help from BLM to 
facilitate consultation with the state on a 
project's potential impacts. The Secretary of the 
Interior's trust responsibilities would continue, 
but BLM would not be in a position to require 
mitigation. 



44 



Alternative I Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Roads and Structures. Roads would be 
built and maintained according to state 
standards and state and local codes. Structures 
are addressed in separate rules at 43 CFR 3715. 

Handling of Potentially Acid-Forming 
Toxic or Other Deleterious Materials. 
Potentially acid-forming material would be 
managed according to state requirements. 
Discharges could not exceed state and federal 
effluent limits under the Clean Water Act. 

Leaching and Processing Operations and 
Impoundments. Leaching and processing 
operations would have to be designed, built, 
and operated according to state standards. 

Stability, Grading, and Erosion Control. 
Stability, grading, and erosion control would 
have to be accomplished according to state 
regulations. 

Pit Backfilling and Reclamation. Mine 
pits would be backfilled or reclaimed according 
to state requirements. 

Financial Guarantees (Bonding) 

No BLM bonding would be required. States 
would set, hold, and administer any financial 
guarantees under state regulations. Existing 
reclamation bonds filed with BLM would either 
be returned to operators or transferred to the 
states. 



Inspection and Monitoring 

States would conduct inspection and 
monitoring programs for compliance with state 
regulations. BLM could inspect sites to verify 
that lands are not undergoing unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 

Penalties for Noncompliance 

States would use their own enforcement 
and penalty programs for noncompliance. BLM 
would take no more enforcement action. Other 
agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, 
Fish and Wildlife Service) could still issue 
citations for violation of environmental laws 
under their statutory authorities. 

Appeals Process 

Alternative 2 would have no appeals 
process on project approvals or enforcement 
through BLM because a federal action would 
not normally be involved. Should BLM act 
under other regulations such as for rights-of- 
way, the decision could be appealed as provided 
by regulations. 



45 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative I Description 



Alternative 3: Proposed 
Regulations (Proposed 
Action and Preferred 
Alternative) 

The proposed regulations would replace the 
existing regulations at 43 CFR 3809. This 
alternative constitutes BLM's preferred 
alternative. The regulations have been changed 
from those presented in the draft EIS in 
response to public comments and so as not to 
be inconsistent with the NRC (1999) report. 

Unnecessary or Undue Degradation 
Definition 

The proposed regulations would change the 
existing definition of unnecessary or undue 
degradation. The regulations would replace the 
"prudent operator" standard in the existing 
regulations with the requirement to comply with 
the following: 

• Performance standards of the proposed 
regulations. 

• Terms and conditions of approved Plans of 
Operations or Notices. 

• Other federal or state laws for environmental 
protection. 

The proposed definition also incorporates 
the Surface Use Act (PL 69-167) requirement 
that activities be reasonably incident to 
prospecting, mining, or processing. The 
definition would retain the current requirement 
that operations attain the stated level of 
protection or reclamation required by specific 
laws in areas such as the California Desert 
Conservation Area, wild and scenic rivers, 
wilderness areas, national monuments, or 
national conservation areas. 

The definition of unnecessary or undue 
degradation has been changed in the final 
proposed regulations to include: "...conditions, 
activities, or practices that.. .result in substantial 
irreparable harm to significant scientific, 
cultural, or environmental resource values of 



the public lands that cannot be effectively 
mitigated." This definition means that 
operations would not be allowed where 
significant resources would incur substantia] 
irreparable harm that could not be mitigated. 
Although BLM intends that a denial based upon 
this aspect of the definition would rarely be 
invoked, BLM would review all operations for 
such potential impacts. 

Examples of where this requirement may 
apply include the following: 

• Disturbance of American Indian sacred sites. 

• Activity that would affect proposed species to 
the point they would become listed as 
threatened or endangered. 

• Mining that removes critical water supply 
aquifers. 

• Disturbance of extremely acid generating 
material that could not be effectively 
controlled. 

This is not an exhaustive list but gives 
examples of where the resources are significant 
and the impact would be so great as to 
constitute unnecessary or undue degradation 
under the proposed definition. 

Project Area Definition 

The proposed regulations would change the 
definition of the project area to account for the 
possibility that mining claims in a project area 
might be held by more than one owner. All 
access and support facilities are still included in 
the definition. 

Public Lands Definition 

The scope of the proposed regulations and 
the definition of public lands would expand the 
category of lands on which the 3809 regulations 
would apply. The proposal is to include split- 
estate lands patented under the Stock Raising 
Homestead Act, where the surface is private but 
the mineral estate is reserved to the United 
States and open to operations under the Mining 
Law. 



46 



Alternative B Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



The proposed regulations would also apply 
to lands where the surface has been sold or 
exchanged btit the minerals have been reserved 
to the United States. On these lands the 
minerals are now segregated from location 
under the Mining Law until the Secretary of the 
Interior issues regulations. The proposed final 
regulations would be the regulations needed 
before these lands could be open to operation 
under the Mining Law. But adopting the 
proposed regulations would not result in a 
wholesale opening of all these reserved 
minerals. The regulations are written to require 
land use planning decisions and environmental 
analysis before BLM decides to open tracts to 
operation under the Mining Law. 

Disturbance Categories and 
Thresholds 

Casual Use. The proposed regulations 
retain the category of casual use for activities 
that involve collecting geochemical, rock, soil, 
or mineral samples using hand tools, hand 
panning, and nonmotorized sluicing. Casual use 
would not include the use of mechanized earth- 
moving equipment, truck-mounted drilling 
equipment, chemicals, explosives, or motorized 
vehicles in areas closed to off-road vehicles. 

The proposed definition of casual use 
would allow some small suction dredging but 
would exclude operations whose cumulative 
effects would result in more than negligible 
disturbance. The BLM state director may 
establish areas where people or groups wishing 
to engage in casual use activities must inform 
BLM in advance so BLM can determine if a 
Notice or Plan of Operations is required 
because of the potential for cumulative effects 
to exceed negligible disturbance. 

Suction dredge operators may be required 
to contact BLM to determine if the proposed 
activity may proceed as casual use, or if a 
Notice or Plan of Operations will be required. 
The suction dredge operator would not be 
required to contact BLM if ( 1 ) the state requires 
an authorization for suction dredging and (2) 
BLM and the state have an agreement under 
proposed 3809.200 for BLM to accept state 



authorizations for purposes of regulating 
suction dredging on BLM-administered lands. 

Notices. The proposed regulations would 
allow only exploration operations to file 
Notices. This provision changes the existing 
regulations, which allow an operator to file a 
Notice if less than 5 acres is disturbed and the 
site disturbed is not in a special status area. This 
change was made so that the regulations would 
not be inconsistent with the NRC (1999) 
recommendations . 

Plans of Operations. The final regulations 
were changed so as to not be inconsistent with 
the NRC recommendations. The Plans of 
Operations threshold would require Plans of 
Operations for any mining regardless of size 
and for any exploration involving bulk 
sampling of more than 1,000 tons. This limit 
replaces the existing threshold that requires 
Plans of Operations for more than 5 acres of 
disturbance. 

In addition, the proposed regulations would 
expand the types of special status lands-where 
Plans of Operations would be required for any 
disturbance exceeding casual use, including 
exploration. Two new types of public land areas 
would be added as listed under the regulations 
at 3809.11(c): any lands or waters known to 
contain federally proposed or listed threatened 
or endangered species or their habitat, and 
national monuments and national conservation 
areas. In addition, Plans of Operations would be 
required for activity on private surface over 
reserved federal minerals where operators do 
not have the consent of surface owners. 

Claim Validity and Valid Existing 
Rights 

The proposed regulations require validity 
exams to determine valid existing rights before 
BLM approves a Plan of Operations or allows 
Notice-level operations to proceed in areas 
withdrawn from the operation of the mining 
laws. On segregated lands, such as those to be 
exchanged, sold, or selected by a state, BLM 
may require a validity exam to determine valid 
existing rights before BLM approves a Plan of 
Operations or allows Notice-level operations to 



47 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 1 Description 



proceed in these areas. This change would 
incorporate in the regulations what had 
previously been within BLM's discretion. 

Common Variety Minerals 

The proposed regulations incorporate a 
process that has been in general practice for 
minerals that are under dispute as to being 
locatable under the Mining Law or of common 
variety and therefore saleable and subject to 
sale for fair market value. The proposed 
regulations would allow mining of the material 
under a Plan of Operations subject to the 
operator's placing potential fair market value in 
escrow pending the outcome of a common 
varieties determination by BLM. 

The proposed regulations would also allow 
BLM to sell mineral materials from an 
unpatented mining claim with the written 
consent of the claimant. 

State-Federal Coordination 

The proposed regulations would enable the 
establishing of two types of agreements 
between BLM and the state: (1) an agreement 
that allows joint administration of the 
regulatory program or (2) an agreement where 
BLM defers to state administration some or all 
of the program. An important provision of the 
proposed regulations is that if BLM determines 
that the state program is adequate to meet the 
BLM equivalent, then BLM must give the state 
the lead for regulation if the state requests the 
lead. 

Even with a complete deferral to state 
regulation, the proposed regulations would 
require BLM to retain the following: 

• Concurrence on approval of Plans of 
Operations. 

• Analysis responsibilities under the National 
Environmental Policy Act. 

• Concurrence in the approval and release of 
any financial guarantee. 

• Consultation and coordination duties for 
compliance with the National Historic 
Preservation Act and the Endangered Species 
Act. 



• Responsibility for any government-to- 
government consultation with American 
Indian tribes. 

BLM would also retain the option to 
conduct inspections and take enforcement 
actions. 

Regardless of the cooperative agreement in 
place, BLM would always retain responsibility 
for land use planning for BLM-managed lands. 
The state could not restrict land use on BLM- 
managed lands, only regulate the activity 
authorized by the public land laws. 

Existing Operations 

The proposed regulations, if adopted, would 
be applied to existing or pending Notices and 
Plans of Operations as follows: 

Existing Notices would expire after 2 years. 
Operators choosing to continue operations 
beyond the 2-year period would have to extend 
their Notices by providing an acceptable 
financial guarantee. Notices for mining would 
not be required to refile as a Plan of Operations 
if the disturbance area does not increase. 

Any approved Plans of Operations existing 
on the effective date of the regulations could 
continue as originally approved for Plan content 
and performance. Plans of Operations, or Plan 
modifications, pending before BLM on the 
effective date of the regulations would not have 
to meet the new Plan content, new performance 
standards, or new definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 

Other aspects of the proposed regulations 
such as enforcement provisions and bonding 
would apply to all Plans of Operations. Existing 
operations would have to give the required 
financial guarantee within 180 days of the 
effective date of the regulations if their present 
financial guarantees do not meet the 
requirements of the final regulations. 

New mine facilities added to existing Plans 
of Operations would be required to comply with 
the new regulations. Modifications to mine 
facilities originally approved under the existing 
regulations would be required to comply with 
the new Plan content and performance 



48 



Alternative? Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



standards unless the operator shows that 
compliance is not practical for economic, 
environmental, safety, or technical reasons. 

Notice and Plan of Operations 
Content and Processing 

Notices. The proposed regulations would 
make it explicit that the 15-day time for BLM 
to review a Notice does not begin until BLM 
receives a "complete" Notice. The proposed 
regulations would retain the 15 calendar day 
review time frame, instead of the initially 
proposed 15 work days because Notices could 
be used only for exploration. This amount of 
time would generally be enough for BLM to 
conduct the review of exploration operations. 
But if conditions warrant, the regulations would 
allow 15 more days of review and an 
opportunity for BLM to conduct a site visit, 
before completing its review of the Notice. 

The proposed regulations contain more 
detail on the contents of a Notice. But operators 
are already providing most of this information 
in Notices under the existing regulations. One 
addition is the requirement to give a 
reclamation cost estimate. The proposed 
regulations contain a new requirement that all 
Notice-level operations must give a financial 
guarantee to ensure performance of reclamation 
(see section on financial guarantees) and that 
the operator must prepare the initial reclamation 
cost estimate. 

BLM would not approve a Notice but 
would review it for adequacy in preventing 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

Plans of Operations. The proposed 
regulations would require Plans of Operations 
to contain information on the operator; a 
description of the operation; and the operation's 
reclamation, monitoring, and interim 
management plans. These requirements mostly 
formalize existing practices. The proposed 
regulations would further require operators to 
supply baseline environmental data on a site- 
specific basis as specified by BLM. Such data 
is not required under the existing regulations, 
but many larger operations have routinely given 



it to facilitate National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) compliance. 

Operators would be required to give BLM 
an initial reclamation cost estimate. BLM 
would review the estimate and either request 
more information or notify the operator of the 
final amount for which financial assurance must 
be provided. 

The proposed regulations would specify 
that operators submit a complete proposed Plan 
of Operations. The Plan must describe the 
operation in enough detail for BLM to complete 
its review and determine if the Plan would be 
adequate to prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation. 

The final regulations would require that all 
Plans of Operations be released for at least a 
30-day public comment period. This comment 
period would generally be the same as the 
comment period for the environmental analysis 
prepared under NEPA. 

The regulations would also specify that 
BLM could disapprove or withhold approval of 
a Plan of Operations if it does not meet content 
requirements. BLM could disapprove a Plan of 
Operations that proposes operations in an area 
closed to the Mining Law, or if the operation 
would result in unnecessary or undue 
degradation. If it disapproves a Plan of 
Operations because it would result in 
substantial irreparable harm to significant 
resources, BLM must include written findings 
stating how each element is exceeded and 
therefore warrants Plan disapproval. 

Modifications 

The proposed regulations would allow 
BLM to require modification where needed to 
prevent unnecessary or undue degradation and 
before mine closure to address unexpected 
events or conditions. This provision changes the 
existing regulations, which allow BLM to 
require a modification only if the state director 
determines that the circumstances warranting 
modification were unforeseen during initial 
Plan approval. 



49 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative I Description 



Temporary or Permanent Closure 

The proposed regulations establish criteria 
for temporary and permanent closure, requiring 
operators to file interim management plans as 
part of their Plans of Operations. Operators are 
then required to do the following: 

• Follow this plan if they stop conducting 
operations. 

• Take all needed action to prevent unnecessary 
or undue degradation. 

• Maintain an adequate financial guarantee. 

After 5 consecutive years of inactivity 
BLM will review an operation and may 
terminate the Plan of Operations if it finds the 
operation to be abandoned. BLM will then 
direct final reclamation and closure. 

Performance Standards 

General. The proposed regulations contain 
mainly outcome-based performance standards. 
Instead of specifying a particular design, these 
standards describe the resource condition that 
must be achieved or the performance a 
particular operating component must meet. The 
proposed regulations require that the operator 
use equipment, devices, and practices that will 
meet the performance standards. 

The proposed regulations also contain a 
performance standard that requires the operator 
to follow a reasonable and customary sequence 
of operations. This means that certain types of 
disturbance, such as mining, should be preceded 
by exploration in order to establish that the 
mining disturbance is necessary. This 
requirement is not specified in the existing 
regulations but is implied under the term 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

Land Use Plans. The proposed regulations 
require operations and postmining land use to 
comply with land use plans. This requirement 
also recognizes that the land use plans must not 
impair the rights of claimants under the Mining 
Law. BLM cannot use land use plans by 
themselves to preclude mineral activity, but 
should use them for guidance on regulating the 
activity. This performance standard is not 



intended to replace the withdrawal process for 
removing lands from operation of the Mining 
Law. 

Surface and Ground Water Protection. 

All operations would have to comply with state 
and federal laws and regulations protecting 
water quality and quantity. The proposed 
regulations would require that the water quality 
of a mine pit not endanger wildlife, public 
water supplies, or users. 

For water pollution and dewatering, the 
proposed regulations would require that 
operation and reclamation minimize water 
pollution and changes in flow in preference to 
water treatment or replacement. Specifying a 
preferred approach, this standard is an 
exception to the general statement that the 
performance standards under Alternative 3 are 
outcome based. 

The proposed regulations contain 
requirements for exploration drilling and drill 
hole plugging. Drill cuttings and mud would 
have to be contained onsite. All exploration 
drill holes would have to be plugged to prevent 
the following: 

• Mixing of waters from aquifers. 

• Adverse impacts to beneficial uses. 

• Downward water loss. 

• Upward water loss from artesian conditions. 

The surface would have to be plugged to 
prevent the direct inflow of surface water into 
the borehole and to eliminate the open hole as a 
hazard. 

Wetlands and Riparian Area Protection. 
Both the existing and proposed regulations 
require that operators obtain state and federal 
permits for dredging or filling in waters of the 
state or the United States. Included are the 
Section 404 permits under the Clean Water Act 
issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
(COE) with certification by the state water 
quality agency. No COE permits are required 
for riparian areas that do not fall within the 
ordinary high water mark and therefore are not 
COE jurisdictional waters. 



50 



Alternative ] Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



The proposed regulations would build on 
the current Clean Water Act permitting 
requirement by specifying a site- selection 
hierarchy for both wetlands and riparian areas. 
The proposed regulations would require that 
disturbance either (1) avoid wetland and 
riparian areas or (2) minimize impacts to 
wetlands and riparian areas and mitigate 
damage to wetland and riparian areas through 
measures such as restoration or offsite 
replacement. 

Soil or Growth Media Handling. The 
proposed regulations would require that topsoil 
or other growth media be removed from the 
lands disturbed by operations and segregated 
and preserved for later use in revegetation 
during reclamation. Where feasible, the 
proposed regulations would direct transport of 
topsoil from the salvage site to use in 
reclamation to preserve more of the soil's 
fertility. 

Revegetation Requirements. The proposed 
regulations would require that all disturbed 
lands be revegetated to establish a stable and 
long-lasting vegetation cover that is self- 
sustaining and comparable in both diversity and 
density to preexisting natural vegetation. Native 
species would be used to the extent feasible, 
and disturbed land would be revegetated 
according to the schedule in the reclamation 
plan. The proposed regulations would also 
require operations to be managed to prevent the 
introducing of noxious weeds and to control 
existing infestations. 

Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Protection and 
Habitat Restoration. The requirements from 
the existing regulations would be carried 
forward to the proposed regulations. Operators 
would have to prevent harm to threatened or 
endangered species and their habitats. Fisheries 
and wildlife habitat disturbed would have to be 
rehabilitated as part of reclamation. 

The proposed regulations would also 
require operators to minimize disturbances and 
adverse impacts on fish, wildlife, and related 
environmental values. All processing solutions, 
reagents, or mine drainage that might be toxic 
to wildlife would have to be fenced or netted to 
prevent wildlife access. Previously, fencing and 



netting had been required by policy and 
incorporated during project-specific reviews. 

Protecting Cultural Resources. Section 
1 06 of the National Historic Preservation Act 
would continue to be used to develop mitigation 
for historic properties found before a Plan of 
Operations is approved. The proposed 
regulations would also require that operators 
not knowingly disturb, alter, injure, or destroy 
any historical or archaeological site, structure, 
building, or object discovered during 
operations. These discoveries would be left 
intact, and the operator would immediately 
notify BLM of the discovery so that BLM could 
decide on proper means of data recovery or 
salvage. 

The proposed regulations would require 
operations to cease for 30 days to allow for data 
recovery of discovered cultural resources. This 
period is an increase over the existing 
requirement of 10 business days. The proposed 
regulations would also allow BLM to determine 
who bears the cost of recovery instead of 
assuming that the government would pay the 
cost. 

Protecting Paleontological Resources. The 
proposed regulations for protecting 
paleontological resources would be similar to 
regulations for cultural resources except no 
formal consultation process would be required 
like that under the National Historic 
Preservation Act (NHPA). The proposed 
regulations would require operations to cease 
for 20 business days to allow data recovery of 
discovered paleontological resources. This 
period is an increase over the existing 
requirement of 10 business days. The proposed 
regulations would also allow BLM to determine 
who bears the cost of recovery instead of 
assuming that the government would pay the 
cost. If BLM were to incur such costs, the 
proposal could allow BLM to then recover 
these costs from the operator, according to 
Section 304(b) of the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act. 

Protecting Cave Resources. The proposed 
regulations would add a new requirement to 
protect cave resources through identification 
and mitigation plans before disturbance. Should 



51 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative I Description 



cave resources be discovered, the proposed 
regulations would require operations to stop for 
20 business days to protect or preserve the 
resource. BLM would determine who bears the 
cost of cave protection. 

Protecting American Indian Traditional 
Cultural Values, Practices, and Resources. 
The proposed regulations do not specify 
performance standards for these resources. The 
existing process of consultation and mitigation 
described for Alternative 1 would continue to 
be used to develop mitigation. 

Some special status areas are expected to be 
designated because of the presence of American 
Indian traditional cultural values, practices, and 
resources. This designation would require 
exploration operations to file Plans of 
Operations, providing for increased consultation 
and mitigation development. 

Roads and Structures. The proposed 
regulations would require that: 

• Access roads minimize surface disturbance. 

• Existing access be used where practical. 

• Safe design be maintained. 

• Natural contours be followed. 

• Cuts and fills be minimized. 

All structures would be built and 
maintained according to state and local codes. 
Structures for use or occupancy are addressed 
in separate rules at 43 CFR 3715. 

Handling of Potentially Acid-Forming, 
Toxic, or Other Deleterious Materials. The 
proposed regulations would incorporate 
guidance from BLM's acid rock drainage policy 
and current practices used by most field offices. 

The proposed regulations require the use of 
static or kinetic testing of material to be mined 
to determine and guide the handling and 
placement of potentially acid-forming materials. 
The proposed regulations also require that 
management of this material be fully integrated 
with operational procedures, facility design, and 
environmental monitoring programs throughout 
the project life. 

The proposed regulations establish a 
hierarchy for control and mitigation of potential 
impacts of the mining of these materials. Acid 



rock drainage (ARD) control would focus on 
prevention or control of the oxidation of acid- 
forming minerals. If the formation of ARD 
cannot be prevented, potential migration of 
ARD must be prevented or controlled. Capture 
and treatment of ARD, or other undesirable 
effluent, to the applicable standard are required 
if source and migration controls do not prove 
effective. Long-term effluent capture and 
treatment would not replace the need for source 
control and could be relied upon only after 
source control methods have been employed. 

Leaching and Processing Operations and 
Impoundments. The proposed regulations 
incorporate current practices in use by most 
field offices and the requirements from BLM's 
cyanide management policy. These 
requirements would apply to mines that use 
cyanide or other leaching agents. 

The proposed regulations would require 
cyanide facilities to be able to contain, at the 
least, the greatest operating water inventory in 
addition to the 100-year, 24-hour storm event, 
including snowmelt events and expected 
draindown from heaps during power outages. 
This is a slight change from the existing 
cyanide management policy, which states that 
facilities must either contain the 100-year, 24- 
hour storm, or meet minimum state 
requirements. 

The proposed regulations would require the 
building of secondary containment systems 
around vats, tanks, or recovery circuits adequate 
to prevent the release of toxic solutions in a 
primary containment failure. 

The proposed regulations would require 
monitoring to detect any leakage from heaps, 
tailing impoundments, and other solution 
containment structures. As part of reclamation, 
upon release to the environment or during 
temporary closure, cyanide solutions and heaps 
would have to be neutralized or detoxified to 
the levels specified in the approved Plan of 
Operations. 

The proposed regulations would require 
operators to take measures to prevent wildlife 
mortalities. All areas with exposed cyanide 
solution, including heaps, would be fenced and 
covered to prevent access by the public, 



52 



Alternative? Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



wildlife, and livestock. Detoxification of 
exposed solutions might be used in lieu of 
fencing tailings impoundments. 

Stability, Grading, and Erosion Control. 
The proposed regulations would specify that 
erosion must be minimized during all phases of 
operations. All disturbed areas would have to be 
graded or otherwise engineered to a stable 
condition to minimize erosion and facilitate 
revegetation. All areas would be recontoured to 
blend in with the premining natural topography 
to the extent feasible. 

Waste Rock, Tailings, and Leach Pads. 
The proposed regulations require that these 
facilities be located, designed, built, operated, 
and reclaimed to minimize contamination of 
surface and ground water, achieve stability, and 
to the extent economically and technically 
feasible, blend with the premining topography. 
These general requirements would be applied to 
the individual project to develop specific 
operating plans. 

Pit Backfilling and Reclamation. The 
proposed regulations would defer determining 
the amount of backfilling required to a site- 
specific analysis prepared during review of the 
Plan of Operations. BLM would use 
information from the operator to consider 
economic, environmental, and safety factors in 
establishing the amount of backfilling, if any, 
required. Mitigation would be required for pit 
areas that are not backfilled. 

The economic feasibility determination 
expected under the proposed pit backfilling 
requirement would not be a detailed review of 
the project economics, such as rate of return on 
investment. BLM does not intend to determine 
what is a reasonable profit margin for mine 
operators. That an operator could completely 
backfill a pit and still show a profit does not 
automatically mean BLM would require 
backfilling. Nor would an operation that 
appears to be uneconomic, even without any 
backfilling, be exempt from backfilling. When 
considering the economic feasibility of pit 
backfilling, BLM would weigh the expected 
environmental benefits in relation to such 
operational economic factors as the following: 



• Whether the project is a single or multiple pit 
operation. 

• Distance and grade from mine site to waste 
rock storage versus backfill location. 

• Direct haul cost versus temporary storage and 
rehandling cost. 

• Reclamation costs as a function of the size of 
the disturbance area. 

The proposed regulations require mitigation 
for pit areas that are not backfilled. The type of 
mitigation expected is not a dollar-for-dollar 
cost compensation (i.e. for every $1 of backfill 
cost saved $ 1 must be spent on mitigation) or 
necessarily an acre-for-acre compensation (i.e. 
for every acre of unreclaimed pit an acre must 
be provided as mitigation). Instead, the intent of 
the mitigation requirement is to ensure that the 
impacts of not backfilling pit areas are 
mitigated. 

For example, if leaving a pit highwall 
creates a safety hazard, required mitigation 
might include erecting perimeter fencing and 
posting hazard signs. If the pit area is in critical 
wildlife habitat that cannot be restored unless 
backfilled, then the mitigation might require 
providing replacement habitat at another 
location. 

The existing regulations allow areas to 
remain unreclaimed to preserve evidence of 
mineralization. The proposed regulations would 
also allow disturbed areas to remain 
unreclaimed for the same reason, but only 
temporarily. Operators would eventually have 
to reclaim all areas for which they are 
responsible. Any areas left temporarily open to 
establish mineralization must be described in 
the reclamation plan along with a time frame 
for completing final reclamation. 

Financial Guarantees (Bonding) 

The proposed regulations would require 
reclamation bonding for all Notice- and Plan- 
level operations. This is a major change from 
the existing regulations, which do not require 
Notice- level operations to give financial 
assurance. The financial guarantee (reclamation 
bond) would have to cover 1 00% of the 



53 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative? Description 



estimated cost for BLM to perform the 
reclamation according to the reclamation plan. 
Corporate guarantees would no longer be 
acceptable as financial assurance for 
reclamation performance. 

The proposed regulations would allow 
equivalent bonding by state agencies but only if 
the bonding instrument is also redeemable by 
the Secretary of the Interior. State bond pools 
would also be allowed if the BLM state director 
determines that the state bond pool gives a level 
of protection equivalent to BLM requirements. 
BLM would notify the public and allow it to 
comment before final bond release. The 
proposed regulations would also specify setting 
up trust funds or other funding mechanisms for 
post-reclamation treatment or maintenance. 

Inspection and Monitoring 

Operators would have to allow BLM to 
inspect operations to determine compliance 
with the proposed regulations. The current 
policy is to inspect operations four times 
annually where cyanide is used or a significant 
potential exists for acid rock drainage. This 
policy would be adopted into the proposed 
regulations. The proposed regulations would 
also allow citizens under certain circumstances 
to annually tour mining operations upon prior 
request. BLM will be responsible for arranging 
the tour with the operator. 

Environmental monitoring programs would 
continue to be developed during the review of 
Plans of Operations. The operator would 
conduct environmental testing (water, air, soil, 
etc.) according to an approved monitoring plan. 
BLM could take samples during inspections to 
verify the monitoring program results. 

Penalties for Noncompliance 

The proposed regulations would allow 
BLM to issue enforcement orders for failure to 
comply with the Notice or Plan or the 



regulations. Two types of enforcement orders 
could be issued: the noncompliance order and 
the suspension order. BLM would issue 
temporary immediate suspensions to operators 
who fail to comply with a noncompliance order 
if needed to protect health, safety, or the 
environment from imminent danger or harm. 
The orders would specify the following: 

• How the operation is not complying with the 
regulations. 

• The portion of operations that must cease or 
be suspended. 

• The actions that must be taken to correct the 
noncompliance. 

• The time by which corrective actions must be 
taken and completed. 

BLM could revoke a Plan or nullify a 
Notice upon finding that the operator has failed 
to correct violations within the specified time. 

The proposed regulations would give BLM 
the discretion to issue civil penalties of up to 
$5,000/day for violation of the regulations or 
failure for comply with an enforcement order. 
The operator could request a hearing with the 
Department of the Interior, Office of Hearings 
and Appeals on the amount of the civil penalty 
or enter into settlement discussions with BLM. 

Appeals Process 

The proposed regulations would provide the 
same appeals process for both the operator and 
third parties. All parties could appeal to the 
BLM state director and thereafter to the Interior 
Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) on any decision 
by which they are adversely affected. The state 
directors could decline to review the decision, 
in which case the next level of appeal would be 
to IBLA. All decisions would remain in full 
force and effect while under appeal unless a 
written request for a stay is granted by the 
reviewing entity. 



54 



Alternative 4 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Under Alternative 4 the 3809 regulations 
would contain prescriptive design requirements 
for resource protection. These requirements 
would increase the level of environmental 
protection and give BLM more discretion in 
determining the acceptability of proposed 
operations. Provisions of Alternative 4 are 
summarized in Table 2-1. Major changes from 
the current regulations include the following: 

• Expanded application to public lands with 
any mineral or surface interest. 

• Numerical performance standards for mineral 
operations. 

• Required pit backfilling. 

• Elimination of Notices so that all disturbances 
greater than casual use require Plans of 
Operations. 

• Required conformance with land use plans. 

• Prohibitions against causing irreparable harm 
or having to permanently treat water. 

Unnecessary or Undue Degradation 
Definition 

Alternative 4 would change the definition 
of unnecessary or undue degradation to require 
a greater level of resource protection and 
impose a design-oriented regulatory program. 
Unnecessary or undue degradation would be 
defined to mean that operations could not 
irreparably harm resources and that the operator 
would have to use best available technology 
and practices as environmental controls. 

Project Area Definition 

The project area would include the same 
activities as under the existing regulations. The 
area's boundary would have to be defined either 
by legal description or a metes and bounds 
survey and approved by BLM. Lands could lie 
within only one project area at a time to prevent 
confusion over operators and their reclamation 
liabilities. 



Public Lands Definition 

The definition of public lands on which the 
regulations apply would be expanded to include 
all lands whose mineral estate is federal and 
surface is private or state owned. The definition 
would also include lands where BLM manages 
the surface but the mineral estate is private or 
state owned. Surface owner consent would be 
required before BLM would approve operations 
on non-BLM managed surface. 

Disturbance Categories and 
Thresholds 

Casual Use. For all activity other than 
claim staking and surface sampling the operator 
would have to consult with BLM to determine 
if the activity is casual use or if a Plan of 
Operations is required. Some activities now 
regarded as casual use, such as hand digging, 
geochemical or geophysical exploration, and 
small-scale suction dredging, would require an 
approved Plan of Operations before the surface 
could be disturbed. 

Notices. The regulations under Alternative 
4 would not contain a Notice provision. All 
types of activity now conducted under a Notice 
would require an approved Plan of Operations 
before the land could be disturbed. 

Plans of Operations. All disturbance 
greater than casual use would require a Plan of 
Operations. A Plan of Operations might be 
required for activity as slight as obtaining small 
surface samples with hand tools. But the 
content and processing requirements for Plans 
would vary greatly, depending on the size of the 
proposed activity. 

Claim Validity and Valid Existing 
Rights 

All Plans of Operations proposing mining 
would require an economic feasibility study. 
This requirement would apply to all lands that 
are subject to mining claims with valid existing 
rights, not just those that have been segregated 
or withdrawn. To justify the potential 
environmental impacts, the feasibility study 



55 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 4 Description 



would be used to determine whether the 
proposed operation is feasible both technically 
and economically. BLM would not approve any 
Plans of Operations that are not economically 
feasible. Plans of Operations proposing 
exploration would not have to be supported by 
an economical feasibility determination because 
the purpose of exploration is to obtain data for 
evaluating feasibility. 

Common Variety Minerals 

Mining of material thought potentially to be 
of common variety, and therefore not locatable 
under the Mining Law, would not be allowed 
under the 3809 regulations. Common variety 
determinations would have to be made and the 
material would have to be classified as a 
locatable mineral before BLM would approve 
Plans of Operations. The regulations would not 
provide for the use of an escrow account 
pending the outcome of the common variety 
determination as is currently the practice. 

State-Federal Coordination 

The regulations would not allow states to 
play the lead role for any element of the surface 
management program on BLM lands. Rather, 
the regulations would provide for BLM to 
coordinate and work cooperatively with the 
states so that operations meet the requirements 
of both state and federal regulations. Conditions 
would be placed on operations so that the most 
protective environmental requirement would 
apply. Should an operation be unable to comply 
with both BLM and state regulations, it would 
have to meet BLM requirements. 

Existing Operations 

Under Alternative 4 all existing Notices 
would expire in 2 years. The disturbance would 
have to be reclaimed within 2 more years, or 
the Notice would have to be replaced by a Plan 
of Operations. Any existing or pending Plans of 
Operations would be required to comply with 
the new regulations in the following manner: 



1 . Within 1 80 days the operator would have to 
file a modified Plan of Operations describing 
how the requirements of the new regulations 
would be met. 

2. BLM would determine the adequacy of the 
modification in meeting the new 
requirements and might grant exceptions 
from requirements for economic, 
environmental, safety, or technical reasons. 

3. Any new facilities added to an existing 
Plans of Operations would have to comply 
with the regulations unless the operator can 
show that compliance is not feasible for 
environmental, safety, or technical reasons. 

4. Modifications made to existing mine 
facilities would have to comply with the 
regulations unless compliance is shown not 
to be feasible for environmental, safety, or 
technical reasons (no economic exemptions). 

Plan of Operations Content and 
Processing 

Because Alternative 4 would not have a 
Notice provision, all activity greater than casual 
use would require a Plan of Operations. The 
content and processing of the Plan would 
generally be the same as that described for 
Alternative 3. But certain performance 
standards, such as the requirements to prevent 
irreparable harm, prohibit permanent water 
treatment, and complete mine pit backfilling, 
would make Plan approval less certain. 

Modifications 

The same modification process would be 
followed as described for Alternative 3. BLM 
may require the operator to modify the Plan of 
Operations to prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation. Plan modifications would be 
required at final closure to address 
unanticipated conditions or new information. 
All Plans must be renewed every 5 years. 



56 



Alternative 4 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Temporary or Permanent Closure 

Temporary or permanent closure would be 
the same as under Alternative 3. Operators 
would have to file and follow interim 
management plans. Plans that are not renewed, 
or are determined to be abandoned, might be 
terminated and final reclamation directed. 

Performance Standards 

General. The regulations would specify the 
minimum national design standards for 
exploration, mining, and reclamation and 
mandate that activities not cause irreparable 
harm. Irreparable harm would mean to 
permanently impair the productivity of the land. 

Land Use Plans. The regulations would 
require that all operations be conducted 
according to the approved BLM land use plans 
in areas open to mineral activity under the 
Mining Law. But land use plans could not be 
used in place of segregations and withdrawals. 
Land use plans would be used to help determine 
sensitive areas and to define what would 
constitute irreparable harm to these resources. 

Surface and Ground Water Protection. 
The water quality in mine pit lakes could not 
exceed the acute toxicity standard for metals so 
as not to endanger wildlife, public water- 
supplies, or users. The regulations would 
require that operators not rely on water 
treatment to meet the water quality standards 
for more than 20 years after closure. The 
operator would be required to show that, after 
closure, the operation could comply with the 
water quality standards through source controls 
after 20 years. BLM would not approve Plans 
of Operations that could not demonstrate 
compliance with this standard. 

The regulations would require the operator 
to restore the hydrologic balance of surface and 
ground water upon reclamation. Water could be 
pumped or transported to restore the 
hydrological balance but not for longer than 20 
years after mine closure. BLM would not 
approve Plans that could not demonstrate 
compliance with this standard. 

The regulations would specify minimum 
design standards for drilling and plugging 



exploration drill holes. All drill cuttings and 
mud would have to be contained onsite using 
sumps or portable tanks. All exploration drill 
holes would have to be plugged from bottom to 
no more than 10 feet of the surface with 
bentonite or a similar compound to prevent 
mixing of waters from aquifers, impacts to 
beneficial uses, downward water loss, or 
upward water loss from artesian conditions. The 
upper 10 feet would have to be plugged with 
cement. 

Wetlands and Riparian Area Protection. 
Specific site selection and mitigation criteria 
would require operators to do the following: 

• Avoid locating operations in wetland and 
riparian areas where possible. 

• Minimize impacts to wetlands and riparian 
areas. 

• Mitigate damage to wetland and riparian 
areas by restoring them to proper functioning 
condition within 10 years after operations 
close or by using offsite replacement at a 
ratio of at least 1 .5 acres for every acre 
disturbed. 

Soil or Growth Media Handling. Soil or 
other growth media would be removed from the 
lands disturbed by operations, segregated by 
soil horizon, and preserved for later use in 
revegetation during reclamation. 

Revegetation Requirements. All disturbed 
lands would have to be revegetated according to 
the schedule in the reclamation plan to establish 
a stable, long-lasting, and self-sustaining 
vegetation cover. Canopy cover would have to 
consist of at least 90% of adjacent undisturbed 
lands with similar elevation, slope, and aspect 
at the same time of year. Only native species 
could be used. Operations, including 
revegetation, would have to prevent the 
introducing of noxious weeds or eliminate any 
existing infestations. 

Fish and Wildlife Protection and Habitat 
Restoration. Within 10 years of closure the 
operator would have to minimize disturbance 
and restore any disturbed habitat to proper 
functioning premining condition. 



57 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 4 Description 



Special status species would be protected 
the same as threatened and endangered species. 
Mineral operations could not affect special 
status species, causing them to be listed as 
threatened or endangered. 

Protecting Cultural Resources. The 
regulations would not limit the time for data 
recovery of significant cultural resources and 
would require that the operator bear the cost of 
recovery. 

Protecting Paleontological Resources. The 
regulations would not limit the time for data 
recovery of significant paleontological 
resources and would require that the operator 
bear the cost of recovery. 

Protecting Cave Resources. The 
regulations would not limit the time for data 
recovery of significant cave resources and 
would require that the operator bear the cost of 
recovery. 

Protecting American Indian Traditional 
Cultural Values, Practices, and Resources. 
Special status areas, designated through land 
use planning as containing American Indian 
traditional cultural resources, would require 
concurrence by affected American Indians 
before BLM would approve a Plan of 
Operations. 

Roads and Structures. Roads built for 
access, haulage, service, or exploration could 
not have maximum sustained grades greater 
than 10%. Short pitches of less than 300 feet 
might be used to take advantage of topography, 
but the grade could not exceed 12%. Diagonal 
drainage barriers would be placed as follows: 

Grade % Max. Spacing (ft) 
0-2 200 

3-8 15 

9-12 80 

All roads would be reclaimed to 
approximate original contours. All structures 
would be built and operated according to codes 
and removed at the end of operations 

Handling of Potentially Acid-Forming, 
Toxic, or Other Deleterious Materials. 
Alternative 4 would have the same provisions 



as Alternative 3 with more design specifics and 
unsuitability criteria. BLM could set criteria to 
determine if certain deposits are unsuitable for 
mining because of their acid-forming and acid- 
neutralizing mineral content, climate, and 
control technologies. Materials exceeding these 
criteria could not be mined. Potentially toxic 
mine wastes (e.g. pond sludge and lab wastes) 
could not be disposed of on BLM-managed 
lands. And plans proposing treatment periods 
longer than 20 years to meet standards would 
not be acceptable and would be denied. 

Leaching and Processing Operations and 
Impoundments. The Alternative 4 regulations 
would contain the same elements as described 
for Alternative 3, but with more design 
specifics. Processing facilities that use cyanide 
would have to be able to contain, at the least, 
the greatest operating water balance in addition 
to the probable maximum precipitation event, 
including snowmelt events and expected 
draindown from heaps during power outages. 
Secondary containment systems would have to 
be built around vats, tanks, or recovery circuits 
adequate to contain 110% of the maximum 
contents in the event of primary containment 
failure. 

All leach pad liner systems would have to 
employ at least two synthetic liners, with a 
drain layer to reduce the hydrostatic head, over 
at least 24 inches of compacted clay. Each 
synthetic liner would have to be at least 40 mils 
thick. The clay liner would have to be 
compacted to a permeability of less than 1 x 1 0-7 
cm/sec. Leak detection and recovery systems 
would be required for heaps and other solution 
containment structures. 

The ore heap and leach pad would have to 
be stable throughout construction and operation. 
A minimum factor of safety of 1 .3 would be 
required under operating conditions. 

Heaps, tailings, or other cyanidated material 
would have to be detoxified at closure (or 
during periods of prolonged inactivity) to 
effluent levels of less than 0.2 mg/1 weak acid 
dissociable cyanide, pH between 6.0 and 8.5, 
and metal levels less than the maximum 
contaminant level. Postclosure discharges 



58 



Alternative 4 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



would have to achieve levels acceptable to the 
state and the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency. 

Stability, Grading, and Erosion Control. 
Erosion would have to be controlled so that soil 
loss would not exceed 2 tons/acre/year. All 
excavations (roadcuts, drillsites, etc.) would 
have to be recontoured approximately to the 
original contour. Recontoured waste rock and 
spent ore would be graded to no steeper than 
3h:lv. 

Pit Backfilling and Reclamation. The 
regulations would exempt operations from 
backfilling only where backfilling is determined 
to be environmentally unsound or unsafe. 

Financial Guarantees (Bonding) 

Reclamation bonding requirements would 
be the same as described for Alternative 3. In 
addition, bond coverage would be expanded to 
include unplanned events such as spills or 
facility failures. 

Inspection and Monitoring 

BLM would be required to inspect all 
operations at least four times a year. Operators 



would be required to hire independent third 
parties to conduct environmental monitoring. 
BLM would be required to take samples during 
inspections to verify the results of the 
monitoring program. 

Penalties for Noncompliance 

The penalty system for noncompliance 
would be the same as under Alternative 3 
except enforcement orders and penalties would 
be mandatory and have to be issued for any 
observed noncompliance. Operators with 
unresolved noncompliances could have future 
permits blocked until the noncompliance is 
resolved. 

Appeals Process 

The appeals process would be the same as 
described for Alternative 3 except that all 
decisions would be automatically stayed from 
effect during consideration of the appeal unless 
a written request for implementation is granted 
by the relevant reviewing official (either the 
BLM state director or the Interior Board of 
Land Appeals). 



59 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternative 5 Description 



Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Alternative 5 would change the existing 
regulations only where specifically 
recommended by the NRC report. BLM would 
not use other aspects of the NRC ( 1 999) report 
to develop changes to the 3809 regulations as 
was done under Alternative 3. 

Unnecessary or Undue Degradation 
Definition 

Under Alternative 5 the definition of 
unnecessary or undue degradation would 
remain same as Alternative 1 . The prudent 
operator standard would be retained, and 
operators would have to follow "usual, 
customary, and proficient" measures, mitigate 
impacts, comply with all environmental laws, 
perform reclamation, and not create a nuisance. 

Project Area Definition 

The definition of project area would also 
remain the same as under Alternative 1 : a tract 
of land upon which operations are conducted. 
The project area would include the area 
required for building or maintenance of roads, 
transmission lines, pipelines, or other means of 
access. The project area could include one or 
more mining claims, but the claims would have 
to be under one ownership. 

Federal Lands Definition 

The definition of federal lands would 
remain the same as under Alternative 1 . The 
lands where the regulations would apply would 
stay the same: BLM-administered lands subject 
to the Mining Law. 

Disturbance Categories and 
Thresholds 

Under Alternative 5 disturbance categories 
and thresholds would be the same as under 
Alternative 3, but Alternative 5 would probably 
not expand the types of special status lands 
were a Plan of Operations was always required 
for any surface disturbance exceeding casual 



use. The Notice-Plan threshold would be based 
on the division between exploration and 
mining. All mining, milling, and bulk sampling 
involving more than 1,000 tons, would require a 
Plan of Operations. 

Exploration disturbing less than 5 acres 
could still be conducted under a Notice unless 
occurring on special status lands. Exploration 
on special status lands, or disturbing more than 
5 acres would require a Plan of Operations. 
Special status areas would include areas of 
critical environmental concern (ACECs), the 
California Desert Conservation Area, wild and 
scenic rivers, wilderness areas, areas closed to 
off-road vehicles, and other formally designated 
areas. 

Claim Validity and Valid Existing 
Rights 

As under Alternative 1 , BLM would have 
the option of determining valid existing rights 
before approving Plans for operations in 
segregated or withdrawn areas. 

Common Variety Minerals 

As under Alternative 1, BLM under 
Alternative 5 would not change the way it 
handles common variety minerals. BLM policy 
provides for holding escrow during operations 
if materials to be mined may be of a common 
variety and subject to payment of fair market 
value. 

State-Federal Coordination 

State-federal coordination under Alternative 
5 would remain the same as at present 
(Alternative 1.) Agreements in each state would 
provide for coordination for review, approval, 
bonding, monitoring, and enforcement action. 
States might have the lead for some program 
elements, but the most restrictive requirements 
(BLM or state) would apply. Agreements or 
memorandums of understanding (MOUs) would 
be developed or modified to give clear 
procedures for BLM to refer certain 
noncompliance actions to other federal and state 
agencies for enforcement. 



so 



Alternative 5 Description 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Existing Operations 

Existing operations under Alternative 5 
would be the same as under Alternative 3 but 
would not include new performance standards. 
Existing Notices would expire after 2 years 
unless bonded and extended. Existing Notices 
for mining would not be required to refile as 
Plans of Operations if disturbance area does not 
increase. 

Existing Plans, pending Plans or Plan 
modifications would be subject to the new 
regulations and would have to meet the new 
bonding requirements within 180 days of the 
new regulations becoming effective. 

Modifications made to existing mine 
facilities after the effective date would have to 
comply with the new regulations unless shown 
not practical for economic, environmental, 
safety, or technical reasons. 

Notice and Plan of Operations 
Content and Processing 

As under Alternative 1, BLM would 
continue to be required to review Notices 
within 15 calendar days, and initially review 
Plans in 30 days with an option for 60 more 
days of review time. Time frames would be 
open-ended for Plans for EIS, National Historic 
Preservation Act, and threatened and 
endangered species compliance. 

Public comment periods would be allowed 
for environmental assessments if BLM 
determines that there is substantial public 
interest. 

Operators would provide Plan of 
Operations interim management plans for 
periods of temporary closure. 

Modifications 

As under Alternative 3, Alternative 5 would 
eliminate the requirement for BLM to 
demonstrate unforeseen issues that warrant 
modification and would allow BLM to require 
operators to modify Notices or Plans to prevent 
unnecessary or undue degradation. BLM could 
also require plan modifications at final closure 
to address unexpected conditions or new 
information. 



Temporary or Permanent Closure 

As under Alternative 3, operators would 
have to follow required interim management 
plans during periods of temporary closure for 
Plan-level operations. BLM might consider 
these operations abandoned, depending on 
length of inactivity and condition of equipment. 
After 5 consecutive years of inactivity, BLM 
might terminate the Plan of Operations and 
direct final reclamation. 

Notices would expire after 2 years. BLM 
might consider the Notice-level operation 
abandoned and order final reclamation, 
depending on time and condition of site and 
equipment. 

Once it determines that a Notice- or Plan- 
level operation is abandoned, BLM would 
begin forfeiture on the financial assurance and 
perform the required reclamation if the operator 
cannot or will not do so. 

Performance Standards 

General. As under Alternative 1 , operators 
would be required to prevent unnecessary or 
undue degradation and follow requirements at 
3809.1-3(d). Other site-specific performance 
requirements might be developed during 
individual project review. 

Land Use Plans. As under Alternative 1, 
land use plans would continue to be used to 
give resource information and determine 
resources of special management concern when 
processing Notices or approving Plans of 
Operations. 

Surface and Ground Water Protection. 
As under Alternative 1 , all operators would 
have to comply with federal and state water 
quality standards. Project approvals would 
establish acceptable postclosure water quality 
conditions for pit lakes suitable for long-term 
use of the site and conditions needed to 
adequately protect ground and surface waters, 
wildlife, and waterfowl. 

Wetlands and Riparian Area Protection. 
As under Alternative 1 , state and 404 permits 
from the Army Corps of Engineers would have 
to be acquired for dredging or filling in U.S. 
waters. BLM would continue to emphasize 



61 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Alternatives Description 



riparian area management during project review 
without a specific performance standard. 

Soil or Growth Media Handling. As under 
Alternative 1 , where reasonably practicable, 
topsoil would have to be saved and reapplied to 
disturbed area after reshaping has been 
completed. 

Revegetation Requirements. As under 
Alternative 1, Alternative 5 would require that 
disturbed areas be revegetated where reasonable 
and practicable and that revegetation provide a 
diverse vegetation cover. Revegetation would 
be a part of the requirement to rehabilitate 
wildlife habitat. The prohibition against the 
creation of a nuisance would be used to address 
noxious weed control. 

Fish and Wildlife Protection and Habitat 
Restoration. Same as Alternative 1. The 
operator must take needed action to prevent 
harm to threatened and endangered species and 
their habitat that might be affected by 
operations. Reclamation must include 
rehabilitating fisheries and wildlife habitat. 

Protecting Cultural Resources. As under 
Alternative 1, Alternative 5 would use the 
National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 
process to develop mitigation for cultural 
resources found before Plan approval. 

Operators could not knowingly disturb, 
alter, injure, or destroy any historical or 
archaeological site, structure, building, object, 
or cultural site discovered during operations. 
Operators must immediately notify BLM of any 
cultural resources found during operations and 
must leave such discoveries intact. BLM has 10 
working days to protect or remove the 
discovery at the government's cost, after which 
operations may proceed. 

Protecting Paleontological Resources. As 
under Alternative 1, operators under Alternative 
5 could not knowingly disturb, alter, injure, or 
destroy any scientifically important 
paleontological remains. 

Operators must immediately notify BLM of 
any paleontological resources discovered during 
operations and must leave such discoveries 
intact. BLM has 10 working days to protect or 



remove the discoveries at the government's 
cost, after which operations may proceed. 

Protecting Cave Resources. Like 
Alternative 1, Alternative 5 does not address the 
protection of cave resources. Such resources 
would be addressed on an individual basis when 
they are identified during project review. 

Protecting American Indian Traditional 
Cultural Values, Practices, and Resources. 
Like Alternative 1 , Alternative 5 does not 
specify the protection of these resources except 
when part of cultural resources under the 
National Historic Preservation Act. 
Consultation with American Indians would be 
used to develop mitigation on a case-by-case 
basis. 

Roads and Structures. As under 
Alternative 1, operators in building roads and 
structures under Alternative 5 would be 
required to do the following: 

• Minimize surface disturbance. 

• Use existing access where practical. 

• Maintain safe design. 

• Follow natural contours. 

• Minimize cuts and fills. 

Operators would have to consult with BLM 
for roadcuts greater than 3 feet on the inside 
edge. 

All structures would have to be built and 
maintained according to state and local codes. 
Structures are addressed in separate rules at 43 
CFR3715. 

Handling of Potentially Acid-Forming 
Toxic or Other Deleterious Materials. As 
under Alternative 1, Alternative 5 would require 
that reclamation include measures to isolate, 
remove, or control toxic or deleterious 
materials. Other requirements imposed would 
be based on site- specific review according to 
the BLM acid rock drainage policy or other 
policies and handbooks 

Leaching and Processing Operations and 
Impoundments. As under Alternative 1, 
Reclamation under Alternative 5 would have to 
include measures to isolate, remove, or control 



Alternative 5 Description 



Chapter I - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



toxic or deleterious materials. Other 
requirements imposed would be based on site- 
specific review according to BLM policies 
(cyanide management policy, BLM state 
cyanide management plans, and acid rock 
drainage policy). 

Stability, Grading, and Erosion Control. 
As under Alternative 1 , reclamation would have 
to include measures to control erosion, 
landslides, and runoff. 

Pit Backfilling and Reclamation. As under 
Alternative 1, the amount of pit backfilling 
under Alternative 5 would be determined on a 
case-by-case basis. Stable highwalls might 
remain where needed to preserve evidence of 
mineralization. 

Financial Guarantees (Bonding) 

As under Alternative 3, the regulations 
under Alternative 5 would require reclamation 
bonding for all Notice- and Plan-level 
operations. This is a major change from the 
existing regulations, which do not require 
Notice-level operations to give financial 
assurance. The reclamation bond would have to 
cover 100% of the estimated cost for BLM to 
perform the reclamation according to the 
reclamation plan. Corporate guarantees would 
no longer be acceptable as financial assurance 
for reclamation performance. 

Alternative 5 would also allow equivalent 
bonding by state agencies but only if the 
bonding instrument is redeemable by the 
Secretary of the Interior. State bond pools 
would be allowed if the BLM state director 
determines that the state bond pool gives a level 
of protection equivalent to BLM requirements. 
BLM would notify the public and allow it to 
comment before final bond release. The 
proposed regulations would also specify setting 
up trust funds or other funding mechanisms for 
post-reclamation treatment or maintenance. 



Inspection and Monitoring 

As under Alternative 1, operators under 
Alternative 5 would have to allow BLM to 
inspect their operations. Existing policy calls 
for inspections four times annually where 
cyanide is used or a significant potential exists 
for acid rock drainage, and twice annually for 
all other operations. 

Monitoring programs would be developed 
during Plan review, and operators would 
conduct environmental testing (water, air, soil, 
etc.) and submit the results to BLM. BLM 
might take check samples during inspections. 

Penalties for Noncompliance 

As under Alternative 3, BLM under 
Alternative 5 would issue discretionary 
administrative penalties ($5,000/day), 
suspensions, revocation of Plan approval, and 
nullification of Notices for failure to comply 
with enforcement orders. BLM would refer 
certain noncompliance actions to other federal 
and state agencies for enforcement. Alternative 
5 would have no additional provisions on 
criminal penalties. BLM would continue to use 
the current criminal penalties process. 

Appeals Process 

As under Alternative 1, BLM decisions 
under Alternative 5 would have to be appealed 
within 30 days. Operators would have to appeal 
to the BLM state director and then to the 
Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). Third 
parties would appeal BLM decisions directly to 
IBLA. BLM's decisions would be in full force 
and effect during appeals unless IBLA grants a 
written request for a stay. 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Implementation Costs 

The adequacy of BLM's funding and 
staffing was a concern voiced by many 
comments during scoping and on the draft EIS. 
Since we are required to analyze the 
environmental consequences of each alternative 
assuming full implementation, we have 
estimated the current surface management 
workload and expenditures, and expected 
funding requirements for the alternatives, 
including the No Action and Proposed Action 
alternatives. 

Current Workload and 
Fiscal Resources 

The BLM Management Information System 
tracks expenditures and accomplishments for 
most of BLM's major program areas, including 
its surface management responsibilities under 
the 3809 regulations. The accounting/budget 
system accounts for processing Notices and 
Plans of Operations, preparing National 
Environmental Policy Act documents, 
responding to appeals, inspecting mineral 
operations, and carrying out enforcement 
actions. For fiscal year 2000, we estimate that 
BLM will process 665 Notices and Plans of 
Operations at a cost of $15.5 million. By the 
end of the fiscal year we will make about 3,000 
inspections, costing $3.1 million. In addition, 
some surface management responsibilities are 
carried out as part of our general land and 
resource management. But processing Notices 
and Plans and conducting inspections accounts 
for most of our surface management 
responsibilities and expenditures. 

In general, the level of funding and staffing 
will not directly affect the number of Notices 
and Plans processed but may affect the 
timeliness of those reviews and approvals. The 
number of Notices and Plans ultimately 
processed is driven by the number that 
operators submit to BLM. By regulation, 
operators must notify BLM at least 15 days 
before beginning operations under Notices. 



Within that 15-day period, BLM does not 
approve Notices but reviews proposals to 
ensure that unnecessary or undue degradation 
would not occur. Except for Notices that lack 
the information needed for the review, we 
generally process Notices within the 15-day 
period. 

BLM must review and approve Plans of 
Operations within 30 days after they are filed. 
The current regulations allow 60 days for 
further review and site inspection, or more time 
to complete National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act 
(NHPA), or Endangered Species Act (ESA) 
requirements. 

When an EIS is required or threatened and 
endangered species or cultural resources may be 
affected, the regulations do not specify a time 
frame for the approval process. For these more 
complex efforts, Plan of Operations approval 
takes at least a year and a half. Much of this 
protracted approval process is due to processing 
requirements, such as the NEPA, NHPA, ESA 
and Native American consultation. But current 
funding and staffing are also factors. 

For simple projects that do not require EISs 
and are not expected to affect threatened and 
endangered species or cultural resources, BLM 
approves Plans of Operations within 2 to 6 
months, depending on the office workload and 
the site specifics of the Plan. In these situations, 
delays beyond the time frame allowed by the 
regulations are mainly due to funding and 
staffing for processing Plans. Even though 
current funding and staffing for processing 
Notices and Plans may not be optimal, they are 
generally adequate. 

The number of inspections conducted 
versus the number that are required by policy 
can be easily estimated and directly tied to 
funding and staffing allocated to that function. 
By policy, BLM is to carry out four inspections 
per year for operations that use leachate and at 
least one inspection per year for all other 
operations. On the basis of the existing policy 
on inspection frequency and data on currently 
active Notices and Plans of Operations, at least 
7,000 inspections should be conducted this 
fiscal year versus the 3,000 inspections we 



64 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



expect to complete this fiscal year. We estimate 
that 7,000 inspections would cost $8.7 million, 
or about $4.0 million above the current 
expenditure level. 

Alternative 1: Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 

Overall activity levels in the form of new 
and amended Notices and Plans are expected to 
remain steady into the foreseeable future. For 
our analysis we assume that BLM will receive 
600 Notice and 150 Plans per year for the 
foreseeable future. Under the No Action 
Alternative, full implementation would at a 
minimum require funding and staffing to meet 
all the processing and inspection needs 
discussed above. In addition, program funding 
and staffing needs to fully implement the 
existing regulations might increase in the future 
because of several factors: 

• Inflation and cost of living adjustments. 

• Increased regulatory attention given to 
technically complex or controversial projects. 

• An increasing number of operations entering 
the closure phase and thereby requiring 
modifications to the Plans of Operations, new 
NEPA analysis, and intensive regulatory 
involvement. 

One example of an emerging workload is 
bankruptcies. Nevada currently has 29 
operations whose operators are in bankruptcy. 
These bankruptcies create a new complex 
workload in which BLM has little experience 
and the full impact on funding and staffing 
needs are still unknown. Overall we estimate 
that full implementation will require at least a 
20% increase in the current expenditure level, 
or about $24.3 million. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

The cost for BLM to implement the 
regulatory program under Alternative 2 would 
be greatly reduced from the current and 
projected levels under the existing regulations 



(Alternative 1). BLM would still have the 
ongoing program costs, including commenting 
on proposed operations and monitoring state 
programs to ensure against unnecessary or 
undue degradation of the public lands. Once 
BLM discontinues program administration, 
costs would be minimal compared to the cost of 
the existing program. The program under 
Alternative 2 would cost BLM about 10% of 
the current program needs, or about $1 million 
annually. That cost estimate assumes that BLM 
does not give funding to the states. 

Alternative 3: Proposed 
Regulations 

The cost to the BLM state and field offices 
to implement the proposed regulations would 
increase in spite of an expected reduction in 
overall mineral activity under this alternative. 
The largest area of increased costs would 
consists of costs to process Notices and Plans, 
including the following: 

• Screening proposed operations for substantial 
irreparable harm. 

• More validity examinations for proposed 
operations on withdrawn and segregated 
lands. 

• More common variety determinations where 
proposed operations may be extracting 
common variety minerals. 

• Bonding for all Notices. 

• Processing Plans for all mining activity. 

• Mandatory public comment periods for all 
Plans. 

• Increased processing requirements for suction 
dredging. 

• More appeals. 

Under Alternative 3 we estimate that each 
year BLM will process from 300 to 340 Notices 
and 290 to 330 Plans. Processing costs would 
be about $20.0 million, which is about $4.5 
million above the current funding for 
processing Notices and Plans. Large unknowns 
in this estimate are the following: 



65 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



• The added cost of dealing with the review 
and consultation requirements for the 
substantial irreparable harm provision. 

• The increase in the number and complexity of 
appeals received. 

• The cumulative effect on the workload as a 
result of the many procedural changes under 
this alternative. 

The drop in mineral activity expected under 
Alternative 3, which would range from 5% to 
30% depending on the size and type of 
operation, would reduce the current inspection 
shortfall of $4.0 million by about $0.7 million. 
Total inspection costs would be about $7.0 
million. We estimate to fully implement the 
program under the Proposed Action, including 
the new processing costs and the inspection 
needs discussed above, would require a 35% 
increase in the current expenditure level, or 
about $27.0 million. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would significantly reduce 
mineral activity, by from 10% to 75% 
depending on the size and type of activity. But, 
Alternative 4 would require operators for all 
activity greater than casual use to prepare Plans 
of Operations. BLM estimates that the annual 
surface management workload would include 
processing 480 to 580 Plans of Operations. Part 
of the process would include evaluating the 
proposed technology to ensure the use of the 
best available technology and compliance with 
specific design standards in each Plan, and the 
preparing of a validity examination for every 
project. 

BLM expects that Plan processing costs 
will be $25.9 million per year. Because of the 
drop in the number of operations, we expect 
field inspection costs to drop. But with 
mandatory enforcement we expect total 
inspection and enforcement costs to be in line 
with our estimate for the No Action Alternative 
($8.7 million). Overall, the funding for fully 
implementing the Maximum Protection 
Alternative would require about $31.5 million. 



Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Because of the requirements to bond 
Notices and to file Plans of Operations for all 
mining, processing costs would increase under 
the NRC Recommendations Alternative. BLM 
estimates that BLM will need to process 360 to 
380 Notices and 340 to 360 Plans per year at a 
cost of $19.5 million, an increase of $4.0 
million over current expenditures. In addition, 
inspection costs would decline from the current 
level. BLM estimates that the shortfall from the 
current expenditures would be $3.1 million. 
Total processing and inspection costs would be 
about $27.3 million. 

Alternatives 
Considered But 
Eliminated from 
Detailed Analysis 

The alternatives considered in detail 
represent a reasonable range of alternatives to 
address the issues recognized by scoping. All of 
the major technical and regulatory issues are 
considered in at least one of the alternatives that 
are analyzed in detail. Other issues, such as 
Mining Law reform, cannot be resolved through 
rulemaking and were not used in developing 
alternatives. 

Other alternatives considered but eliminated 
from detailed analysis include one that would 
consider funding levels or mandating complete 
funding of the existing regulations and one 
requiring complete restoration to premining 
conditions. 

The complete funding alternative was 
eliminated as redundant. The EIS analysis 
needs to assume the complete implementation 
of alternatives to fully consider the potential 
environmental impacts of an alternative's being 
selected. The analysis of the existing 
regulations (Alternative 1) is based upon 
complete implementation of that alternative, 
which implies complete funding. Complete 



66 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



implementation is also assumed for Alternatives 
2, 3, and 4 when assessing potential impacts. 
The EIS does estimate the relative cost to 
implement each alternative. Although 
regulatory programs are often underfunded, 
assuming complete implementation when 
presenting the impacts allows the public and the 
decision maker to see the relative cost versus 
benefits that might be achieved under the 
regulatory scheme of each alternative. 

In developing a preferred alternative for 
consideration in the final EIS, two approaches 
may be taken if adequate funding appears not to 
be likely. The alternative may be modified to 
reduce implementing costs, or it may remain 
unchanged with the recognition that complete 
implementation would require adequate 
funding. 

The alternative of requiring total restoration 
of disturbed lands to premining conditions was 
considered but eliminated from detailed 
analysis. Complete restoration would require 
restoring the premining topography with the 
same habitat composition and productivity 
levels. In contrast, reclamation requires 
attaining a stable and productive land area 
though not necessarily replacing the same 
predisturbance habitat or exact topography. 
Both the technical and economic difficulties of 
attaining complete restoration would make most 
mining operations on public lands infeasible. 
Complete restoration would conflict with 
BLM's multiple use mandate and would offer 
little commensurate environmental benefit over 
alternatives with aggressive reclamation 
requirements. 

The alternative of adopting ISO 14000 
standards was also considered but eliminated 
from detailed analysis. Established by the 
International Organization for Standardization, 
ISO 14000 standards provide a framework a 
company can use to incorporate a voluntary 
environmental management system (EMS) into 
its operations. Integrating an EMS into a 
company's operations can offer guidelines and 
opportunities for continuous improvement of 
the company's compliance and performance 



with environmental regulations. But ISO 14000 
standards do not replace environmental 
regulations, and compliance is still necessary 
within a company's EMS framework. 
Consequently, ISO 14000 standards could be 
voluntarily adopted by a company within any of 
the alternatives analyzed in detail in this EIS 
and do not need to be considered separately. 

National Research 
Council Report 
Consistency 

The National Research Council evaluated 
the adequacy of the existing 3809 regulatory 
framework. The NRC report Hardrock Mining 
on Federal Lands (NRC 1999) contains both 
regulatory and nonregulatory recommendations 
for changes in the existing program. The NRC's 
Committee on Hardrock Mining on Federal 
Lands released this final report on September 
29, 1999. The report concluded that improve- 
ments to the implementation of the existing 
regulations present the greatest opportunity for 
improving environmental protection and the 
efficiency of the regulatory process. The NRC 
report then listed gaps in the existing 
regulations and recommended regulatory and 
nonregulatory changes to the program. 

After the release of the report, Congress 
directed that BLM could finalize the proposed 
3809 regulations provided they were not 
inconsistent with the recommendations in the 
NRC report. BLM considers this requirement as 
prohibiting the agency from selecting as final 
regulations an alternative that would contradict 
or oppose a NRC recommendation. As a result, 
the proposed regulations and preferred 
alternative have been changed in the final EIS 
so as not to be inconsistent with the NRC 
report. Where NRC was silent on a specific 
aspect of the existing regulations, BLM's 
proposed changes would not be inconsistent 
with any NRC recommendations. 



67 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Preferred Alternative 

BLM's preferred alternative is Alternative 
3, the Proposed Action. The preferred 
alternative has been changed in the final EIS in 
response to comments and to not be 
inconsistent with the recommendations in the 
NRC report. It is also possible that future 
Congressional action may limit BLM's ability 
to adopt the preferred alternative. The timing of 
the legislative process (among other reasons) 
may make it impractical for the BLM to 
restructure the EIS and change the preferred 
alternative. In such circumstances, while the 
preferred alternative in this document may not 
change, the BLM may adopt one of the other 
alternatives, in whole or in part, to comply with 
the legislative directive. 

Summary Tables 

The last portion of this chapter presents 
three sets of tables that summarize important 
components of the EIS. Table 2-1 summarizes 
and compares the five alternatives by regulatory 



issue. The table describes the alternatives for 
each of the regulation components and then in 
detail for the performance standards, with a 
breakdown for each environmental or operating 
component. The numeric notation in the left 
column shows where the specific language on 
this subject can be found in the proposed 
regulations under Alternative 3. 

Table 2-2 compares the NRC report 
conclusions or recommendations with both the 
existing and the proposed final 3809 
regulations. This table allows the reader to see 
how NRC conclusions or recommendations 
compare with both the existing regulations and 
the proposed final 3809 regulations. Excerpts in 
the right-hand column have been taken near 
verbatim from the NRC report. Where the right- 
hand column in the table is blank, the NRC 
report makes no corresponding mention of this 
aspect of the regulations. 

Table 2-3 summarizes the potential 
environmental impacts for each alternative. A 
detailed description of impacts is presented in 
Chapter 3 for each resource component. 



68 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 


Regulation 
Issue 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 


Casual Use 

Definition/ 

Suction 

Dredging 

[3809.5] 


Activities resulting only in 
negligible surface 
disturbance and not involving 
mechanized earthmoving 
equipment, explosives, or 
vehicle use in areas closed 
to off-road vehicles. Interior 
Board of Land Appeals 
(IBLA) has recently ruled that 
suction dredges are not 
casual use. 


Not applicable. 


Cumulative impacts could 
exceed casual use level. 

Regulations would specify that 
small suction dredges could 
be casual use. 

BLM would not require a 
Notice or Plan for suction 
dredging if a state permit is 
required and BLM has a MOU 
with the state on suction 
dredging. 


For all activities other than 
claim staking operator must 
consult with BLM to determine 
if the activity is casual use or 
a Plan is required. 


No Change, same as 
Alternative 1 . 


Definition of 
Project Area 
[3809.5] 


A tract of land upon which 
operations are conducted. 
Includes area required for 
building or maintaining 
roads, powerlines, pipelines, 
or other means of access. 
Project area may include one 
or more mining claims, but 
claims must be under one 
ownership. 


Would not apply to most 
operations. 

Exclusive-use access roads, 
powerlines, pipelines, etc. 
would require rights-of-way 
from BLM. 


Change would not specify that 
mining claims involved in a 
project be under single 
ownership. 


Same as Alternative 3, except 
project area would have to be 
described by metes and 
bounds or legal description. 
BLM must approve a specific 
project area boundary. 


No Change, same as 
Alternative 1 . 


Definition of 
Public Lands 

(Lands where 
regulations 
would apply) 
[3809.5] 


BLM-administered lands 
subject to the Mining Law. 
Does not include lands 
where only minerals or 
surface is federal, except 
that amendments to the 
Stock Raising Homestead 
Act require BLM involvement 
when surface owner does not 
consent to mineral 
development. 


No change from current 
definition. 


Expand definition to include 
lands where mineral estate is 
federal, subject to the Mining 
Law, and surface estate is 
private under Stock Raising 
Homestead Act. Lands with 
reserved minerals from a sale 
or exchange could be open to 
operation of the Mining Law 
through a land use plan. 


Same as Alternative 3. 


No Change, same as 
Alternative 1 . 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



o 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 








Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 


Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recommendations 


Unnecessary 


Prudent operator standard. 


Compliance with all state 


Replace prudent operator 


Same as Alternative 3. 


No Change, same as 


or Undue 


Follow "usual, customary, 


programs for regulating 


standard with requirement to 




Alternative 1 . 


Degradation 


and proficient" measures. 


mining, and other federal 


comply with performance 


Unnecessary or undue 




Definition 


Mitigate impacts. Comply 


environmental laws, would be 


standards. 


degradation would be defined 




(UUD) 


with environmental laws. 


considered adequate for 




to mean that operations could 




[3809.5] 


Perform reclamation. Do not 


prevention of unnecessary or 


All activity must be reason- 


not irreparably harm 






create a nuisance. 


undue degradation as 


ably incident to prospecting, 


resources and that the 








required by FLPMA. 


mining, or processing oper- 
ations. 

Add to definition: conditions, 
practices, or activities that 
cause substantial irreparable 
harm to significant scientific, 
cultural, or environmental 
resources that cannot be 
effectively mitigated. 


operator would have to use 
best available technology and 
practices as environmental 
controls. 

Replace prudent operator 
standard with requirement to 
comply with the performance 
standards. 

All activity must be reason- - 
ably incident to prospecting, 
mining, or processing 
operations. 





Table 2-1 , Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 


Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 


Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recommendations 


Notice vs. 


Surface disturbance less 


Filing a Notice or Plan with 


Change threshold on the basis 


Eliminate Notice provision. All 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Plan of 


than 5 acres per calendar 


BLM is not required. 


of division between 


disturbances exceeding 


Use existing special 


Operations 


year requires a Notice. 




exploration and mining. 


casual use would require 


status lands. 


Threshold 


Plans required for more than 


States would handle all 




Plans of Operations. 




[3809.11] 


5 acres a year of disturbance 


permitting of mineral activities 


All mining, milling, and bulk 








or for any activity above 


on BLM lands. 


sampling over 1 ,000 tons 








casual use in special status 




would require Plans. 








areas such as ACECs, 












California Desert 




Exploration disturbing less 








Conservation Area, wild and 




than 5 acres would require 








scenic rivers, wilderness 




Notices. 








areas, and areas closed to 












off-road vehicles. 




Exploration in special status 
lands or disturbing more than 
5 acres would require Plans. 

Expand special status lands to 
include: national monu- 
ments/conservation areas, 
and lands containing 
proposed or listed T&E 
species or their critical habitat. 






Mining Claim 


Not addressed in 3809 regs. 


No Change. BLM always has 


Add requirement that validity 


Same as Alternative 3 but an 


No Change. Same as 


Validity, 


Validity exams are required 


option of examining any 


exams determine valid 


economic feasibility study is 


Alternative 1 . 


Existing 


before Plan approval in 


mining claim at any time. 


existing rights before approval 


required for all Plans on all 




Rights, and 


wilderness areas per 8560 




of Plans in areas withdrawn 


lands. BLM would not 




Mine 


regulations. BLM has option 




from operation of mining laws. 


approve economically 




Economics 


of determining valid existing 






infeasible Plans of Opera- 




[3809.100] 


rights before approving Plans 
in segregated orwith-drawn 
areas. 




Discretion to perform validity 
exams for segregated lands. 


tions.. 




Common 


Not addressed in 3809 regs. 


No change. 


Regulations would provide for 


Plans not approved and 


No Change. Same as 


Variety 


Policy provides for holding 




holding escrow during opera- 


mining not allowed until 


Alternative 1 . 


Minerals 


escrow during operations if 




tions if materials to be mined 


classification of material to be 




[3809.101] 


materials to be mined may 




may be of a common variety 


mined has been resolved 






be of a common variety and 




and subject to payment of fair 


through a common varieties 






subject to payment of fair 




market value. 


determination. 






market value. 











Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 








Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 


Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recom mendations 


State and 


MOUs in each state provide 


States would regulate all 


When requested, BLM must 


BLM has lead role on BLM 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Federal 


for coordination for review, 


activity on BLM lands. BLM 


give states the lead where 


lands and would coordinate 


MOUs would be 


Government 


approval, bonding, monito- 


would periodically evaluate 


state program is at least as 


with the states so that the 


developed or modified 


Coordination 


ring, and enforcement. State 


state program to determine if it 


strict as BLM requirements. 


more stringent regulations 


to provide clear 


[3809.201- 


may have lead for some 


is preventing unnecessary or 




(federal or state) would apply 


procedures for BLM to 


204] 


program elements. Most 


undue degradation. BLM 


BLM must concur on Plan 


to the project. 


refer certain noncom- 




restrictive requirements (BLM 


would continue to decide 


approvals. BLM retains 




pliance actions to other 




or state) apply. 


which areas are open or 


inspection and enforcement 




federal and state 






closed to mining through the 


option and NEPA, NHPA, 




agencies for enforce- 






land use planning and 


Tribal Govt.-Govt. coordina- 




ment. 






withdrawal processes. 


tion and T&E species 












responsibilities. 







3 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



CO 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 








Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 


Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recommendations 


Applying 


Not applicable. 


Existing activity could 


Existing Notices would expire 


Notices expire in 2 years and 


Same as Alternative 3 


Regulation 




continue according to state 


after 2 years unless bonded 


must be reclaimed or replaced 


but without new 


Changes to 




requirements. 


and extended. 


by Plans. 


performance standards. 


Existing 












Operations or 






Existing Notices for mining are 


Existing and pending Plans 


Existing Plans, pending 


Facilities 






not required to refile as a Plan 


must comply with new 


Plans, or Plan 


[3809.300] 






if disturbance area does not 


regulations as follows: (1) 


modifications would be 


[3809.400] 






increase. 


Within 180 days operator 


subject to new regula- 


[3809.433- 








would have to file a modified 


tions and would have to 


434] 






Existing Plans, pending Plans, 


plan. (2) BLM may grant 


meet new bonding 








or Plan modifications need not 


exceptions from specific 


requirements within 








comply with new performance 


requirements for economic, 


1 80 days of effective 








standards if filed before 


environmental, safety, or 


date of new regula- 








effective date of new 


technical reasons. 


tions. 








regulations. All Plans would 












have to meet new bonding 


All new or modified facilities 


Modifications to 








requirements within 180 days 


added to existing Plans must 


existing mines after 








of effective date of new 


comply with the new 


effective date would 








regula-tions. 


regulations. 


have to comply with 
new regulations unless 








New mine facilities added to 




shown not practical for 








existing Plans after effective 




economic, 








date would have to meet new 




environmental, safety, 








regulation requirements. 




or technical reasons. 








Modifications to existing mine 












facilities after effective date 












would have to comply with 












new regulations unless 












shown not practical for 












economic, environmental, 












safety, or technical reasons. 







Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 


Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 


Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recommendations 


Notice and 


BLM review of Notices 


Follow state program 


Expanded detail on Notice 


Same as Alternative 3 but for 


Same as Alternative 1. 


Plan of 


required in 15 calendar days. 


requirements for content and 


and Plan contents. Includes 


Plans only. 




Operations 


Plans, 30 days, with option of 


processing of activities. 


plans for interim management 




Must provide interim 


Contents and 


60 more days. 




during temporary closures. 




management plans for 


Processing 




No BLM processing or 






periods of temporary 


[3809.301- 


Open-ended time frame for 


decisions., BLM could 


Operators also required to 




closure. 


313] 


Plans for NEPA (EIS), NHPA, 


comment to state on 


provide all studies/data BLM 






[3809.401- 


and T&E species compli- 


proposals, just as could any 


needs to comply with NEPA. 






412] 


ance. 

Public comment period on 
EA if BLM determines there 
is substantial public interest. 


other potentially affected 
landowner 


Review Plan for complete- 
ness within 30 days. Notice 
time frame 15 days. 

Clarify review time frames 
begin when complete Notice 
or Plan is received. 

Mandatory public comment 
period on all Plans for at least 
30 days. 






Modifications 


Operator-initiated 


Conducted according to state 


Eliminated requirement for 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Same as Alternative 3. 


[3809.330- 


modifications are processed 


requirements. 


BLM to show unforeseen 






331] 


similar to original Notice or 




issues that warrant modifica- 


All Plans must be renewed 




[3809.430- 


Plan. 




tion. 


every 5 years. 




431] 


Agency-required modifica- 
tions must show need and 
that the issue was 
unforeseen at the time of 
initial Plan approval. 




BLM may require operator to 
modify Notice or Plan to 
prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation (UUD). Only test 
is that the modifica-tion is 
needed to prevent UUD. 

Plan modifications required at 
final closure to address 
unanticipated conditions or 
new information. 







Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



-J 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 


Regulation 
Issue 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 


Temporary or 

Permanent 

Closure 

[3809.334] 

[3809.336] 

[3809.424] 


Site must be maintained in 
safe and clean condition. 
May require removal of all 
structures and equipment, 
and site reclamation after 
unspecified period of 
nonoperation. 


Conducted according to state 
requirements. 


Must follow interim 
management plans during 
periods of temporary closure. 

Notices expire after 2 years. 
BLM may consider projects 
abandoned, depending on 
time and condition of sites and 
equipment. 

Plans are similar to Notices. 
After 5 consecutive years of 
inactivity, Plans may be 
terminated. 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Financial 

Guarantee 

Requirement 

(Bonding) 

[3809.500 - 

.599] 


Bonds required only for 
Plans at BLM's discretion. 
Expired policy limits bond 
amounts to $1 ,000/acre for 
exploration and $2,000/acre 
for mining, except for areas 
with cyanide use or ARD 
potential which are bonded at 
100% estimated BLM 
reclamation cost. 

Use state bonding programs 
to meet these requirements 
through agreements. 


No BLM bonding. The state 
would set, hold, and adminis- 
ter financial guarantees 
according to state regulations. 


Actual-cost bonding required 
for all Notices and Plans. 

Operator would provide initial 
reclamation cost estimate. 

Financial guarantee must 
cover 1 00% of reclamation 
costs, including any post- 
closure water treatment or 
other site maintenance. 

Equivalent state bonding 
instruments could be used to 
meet requirements, but must 
be redeemable by the 
Secretary of the Interior. 

Discontinue accepting 
corporate guarantees. 


Same as Alternative 3. 

Bonding would be expanded 
to cover unplanned events 
such as spills or facility 
failures. 


Same as Alternative 3. 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 






Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 




Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recommendations 




Inspection 


Operators must allow BLM to 


States would conduct 


Same as Alternative 1 . Add: 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 




and 


inspect operations. Policy is 


inspection and monitoring 


Mandate current policy of 








Monitoring 


for inspections four times 


programs. 


inspections four times 


Operators would be required 






[3809.600] 


annually where cyanide is 
used or significant potential 
for acid rock drainage and 
twice annually for all other 
operations. Monitoring 
programs are developed 
during Plan review. The 
operator conducts environ- 
mental testing (water, air, 
soil, etc.) and submits the 
results to BLM. BLM may 
take check samples during 
inspections. 




annually where cyanide is 
used or potential exists for 
acid rock drainage. 

Upon prior notification to BLM, 
in certain circumstances, may 
allow the public to annually 
tour mines. 


to hire independent third 
parties for environmental 
monitoring. 

BLM would be required to take 
check samples during 
inspections. 






Type and 


BLM issues notices and 


State enforcement and 


Same as Alternative 1 . Add: 


Same as Alternative 3 except 


Same as Alternative 3. 


CD 


Adequacy of 


records of noncompliance. 


penalty programs would be 


BLM would issue discretion- 


enforcement orders and 






Penalties for 


Federal injunctions and 


used. BLM would not issue 


ary administrative penalties 


penalties would be mandatory. 


No additional 




Non- 


criminal prosecution may be 


separate penalties. Other 


($5,000/day), suspensions, 


Operators with unresolved 


regulations on criminal 




compliance 


used. 


agencies would still enforce 


revocation of Plan approval, 


noncompliance could have 


penalties. Use current 




[3809.700] 




other laws using their statutory 
authorities. 


and nullification of Notice for 
failure to comply with enforce- 
ment orders. 

Under MOUs, BLM would 
refer certain noncompliance 
actions to other federal and 
state agencies for 
enforcement. 


future permits blocked. 


criminal penalties 
process (Alt..1). 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulation Alternatives Summary by Provision 


Regulation 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: NRC 


Issue 


Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Maximum Protection 


Recommendations 


Appeals 


BLM decisions must be 


Generally there would be no 


Both operator and third parties 


Same as Alternative 3 except 


No Change. Same as 


Process 


appealed within 30 days. 


appeals since normally a 


could request a state director 


that all decisions would be 


Alternative 1 . 


[3809.800] 




federal action would not be 


review of any decisions, or 


automatically stayed from 






Operators must appeal to 


involved. Where BLM takes an 


appeal directly to IBLA. 


effect during consideration of 






BLM state director, then to 


action under some other 




the appeal unless a written 






the Interior Board of Land 


regulations, such as for rights- 


State director decisions could 


request for implementation is 






Appeals (IBLA). 


of-way, the decision could be 
appealed under the appeals 


also be appealed to IBLA. 


granted by the reviewing 
official (state director or IBLA). 






Third-party appeals of BLM 


rules for that program. 


All decisions would be in full 








decisions are made to IBLA. 




force and effect unless a 
written request for a stay is 








BLM's decision is in full force 




granted by the reviewing entity 








and effect during an appeal, 




(state director or IBLA). 








unless IBLA grants a written 












request for a stay. 











-I 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 


Performance 

Standards 

Sub-Issues 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5: 

NRC Recommendations 


General 
Performance 
Requirements 
[3809.420] 


Prevent unnecessary or 
undue degradation. Follow 
requirements at 3809.1-3(d). 

Other site-specific require- 
ments may be developed 
during individual project 
review. 


Mining regulation standards 
based exclusively on state 
standards and requirements 
or those of other federal 
agencies such as EPA and 
the Army Corps of Engineers 
for specific environmental 
media. 


Outcome-based standards 
with site-specific allowances. 
Includes BLM cyanide and 
acid rock drainage require- 
ments. Use proper equip- 
ment, devices, and practices. 

Follow reasonable and 
customary sequence of 
exploration, development, and 
reclamation. 

Must conduct activities to 
prevent substantial 
unmitigatable and irreparable 
harm to significant resources. 


Specify minimum national 
design standards for 
exploration, mining, and 
reclamation. Incorporate BLM 
policy requirements for 
cyanide and acid rock 
drainage. 

Must conduct activities to 
prevent irreparable harm to 
productivity of the land as 
determined by land use plans. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


.4 Land Use 
D Plans 


Not addressed. 


Not addressed. 


Consistent with the Mining 
Law, operations and 
postmining land use must 
comply with land use plans. 


Same as Alternative 3. BLM 
would use land use plans to 
determine resource condi- 
tions that constitute irrepar- 
able harm. 


Same as Alternative 1. 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 




Performance 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: 




Standards 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC Recommendations 




Sub-Issues 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 








Surface and 


All operators must comply with 


Same as Alternative 1 . State 


Same as Alternative 1 , plus pit 


Same as Alternative 3 with 


Same as Alternative 1 . 




Ground Water 


federal and state water quality 


water protection programs and 


water quality must not 


these added criteria. Pit water 






Protection 


standards. Exploration 


other federal water protection 


endanger wildlife, public water 


quality must not exceed the 


Project approvals would 






operations and drill hole 


requirements would still apply 


supplies, or users. 


acute toxicity standard for 


establish acceptable 






plugging are not specified. 


to operations on BLM- 




metals so as not to endanger 


postclosure water quality 








administered lands. 


To meet this standard, 
operators would use operation 
and reclamation practices that 
minimize water pollution and 
changes in flow in preference 
to water treatment or 
replacement. 

All drill cuttings and mud must 
be contained onsite. All 
exploration drill holes must be 


wildlife, public water supplies, 
or users. Operators must not 
need to rely for more than 20 
years on water treatment, 
maintenance, or replacement 
of lost flow to meet this stan- 
dard. All drill cuttings and mud 
must be contained onsite 
using sumps or portable 
tanks. All exploration drill 
holes must be plugged from 


conditions for pit lakes 
suitable to long-term use 
of the site and those 
needed to adequately 
protect ground and 
surface waters, as well as 
wildlife and waterfowl. 


■> 








plugged to prevent mixing of 


the bottom to no more than 10 




(£ 








waters from aquifers, impacts 
to beneficial uses, downward 
water loss, or upward loss 
from artesian conditions. Bore 
holes must be plugged on the 
surface to prevent direct inflow 
of surface water and to 
eliminate the open hole as a 
hazard. 


feet of the surface with 
bentonite or a similar 
compound to prevent mixing 
of waters from aquifers, 
impacts to beneficial uses, 
downward water loss, or 
upward loss from artesian 
conditions. Upper 10 feet must 
be plugged with cement. 





Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 


Performance 


Alternative 1: 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: 


Standards 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC Recommendations 


Sub-Issues 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 






Wetlands and 


Not specified. State and 404 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Same as Alternative 1 with 


Same as Alternative 1 with 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Riparian Area 


permits (from the Army Corps 




specific site-selection criteria 


specific site selection and 




Protection 


of Engineers) must be 
acquired for dredging or filling 




added: 


mitigation criteria: Operator 
must (1) avoid locating 






in U.S. waters. 




Operator must: (1) avoid 
locating operations in 
wetlands and riparian areas 
where possible, (2) minimize 
impacts to wetlands and 
riparian areas, and (3) 
mitigate damage to wetlands 
and riparian areas through 
measures such as restoration 
or offsite replacement. 


operations in wetlands and 
riparian areas where possible, 
(2) minimize impacts to 
wetlands and riparian areas, 
and (3) mitigate damage to 
wetland and riparian areas by 
restoring to proper functioning 
condition within 10 years after 
operations or offsite replace- 
ment at a ratio of at least 1 .5 
acres for every 1 acre 
disturbed. 




Soil or Growth 


Where reasonably practicable, 


Topsoil must be salvaged and 


Topsoil or other growth media 


Same as Alternative 3. Topsoil 


No Change. Same as 


Media 


topsoil must be saved and 


reapplied according to state 


must be removed, segregat- 


or other growth media must be 


Alternative 1 


Handling 


reapplied to disturbed areas 


standards. 


ed, and preserved for later 


removed from lands to be 






after areas have been 




use in revegetation during 


disturbed by operations, 






reshaped. 




reclamation. If topsoil or 
growth media are of poor 
quality, other strata or more 
suitable growth media must be 
removed, segregated, or 


segregated by soil horizon, 
and preserved for later use in 
revegetation during 
reclamation. 










preserved in a like manner. 







Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 


Performance 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: 


Standards 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC Recommendations 


Sub-Issues 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 






Revegetation 


Where reasonable and 


Disturbed areas must be 


Same as Alternative 1 with 


Same as Alternative 3 with 


No Change. Same as 


Requirements 


practicable, disturbed areas 


revegetated where reasonable 


more specifics on outcome. 


some more design specifics. 


Alternative 1 . 




must be revegetated. 


and practicable according to 


All disturbed lands must be 


Canopy cover must be at least 






Revegetation is to provide a 


state standards. 


revegetated to establish a 


90% that of adjacent 






diverse vegetation cover and 




stable and long-lasting cover 


undisturbed lands with similar 






is a component of the require- 




that is self-sustaining and 


elevation, slope, and aspect at 






ment to rehabilitate wildlife 




comparable in both diversity 


same time of year. Only 






habitat. Ban on creating a 




and density to preexisting 


native species may be used. 






nuisance would be used to 




natural vegetation. Use native 








address noxious weed control. 




species to the extent feasible 
and establish success 
according to schedule in 
reclamation plan. Operations 
must prevent and control 
noxious weed infesta-tions. 


Operations, including 
revegetation, must prevent 
introducing noxious weeds or 
eliminate existing infestations. 




Fish, Wildlife 


Operator must act to prevent 


Use state standards for 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


and Plant 


harm to threatened and 


protecting fish and wildlife. 








Protection and 


endangered species and their 




Operators must minimize 


Operators must minimize 




Habitat 


habitats that might be affected 


Taking of a threatened or 


disturbances and adverse 


disturbance and within 10 




Restoration 


by operations. 


endangered species or 


impacts to fish, wildlife, and 


years restore disturbed habitat 








migratory birds would still be 


related environmental values. 


to proper functioning 






Reclamation must include 


prohibited under the 




premining condition. 






rehabilitating fisheries and 


Endangered Species Act and 


All processing solutions, 


Operators must not jeopardize 






wildlife habitat. 


Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 


reagents, or mine drainage 
toxic to wildlife must be 
fenced or netted to prevent 
wildlife access. 


special status species, 
causing them to be listed as 
threatened or endangered. 





Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 



Performance 

Standards 

Sub-Issues 



Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 



Alternative 2: 
State Management 



Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 



Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 



Alternative 5: 

NRC Recommendations 



Protecting 

Cultural 

Resources 



National Historic Preservation 
Act Section 1 06 process used 
to develop mitigation for 
cultural resources found 
before Plan approval. 

Operators cannot knowingly 
disturb, alter, injure, or destroy 
any historical or 
archaeological site, structure, 
building, object, or cultural site 
discovered during operations. 

Operators must immediately 
notify BLM of any cultural 
resources found during 
operations and must leave 
such discoveries intact. BLM 
has 10 working days to protect 
or remove discovery at the 
government's cost, after which 
operations may proceed. 



State standards would be 
used for protecting cultural 
resources. 



Same as Alternative 1 , except 
30 calendar days instead of 
10 working days would be 
allowed for data recovery. 

BLM would determine who 
bears cost of recovery on a 
case-by-case basis. 



Same as Alternative 1 , except 
no time limit would be set on 
data recovery of significant 
cultural resources. 

Operator would bear cost of 
site recovery. 



No Change. Same as 
Alternative 1 . 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 


Performance 

Standards 

Sub-Issues 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5: 

NRC Recommendations 


Protecting 
Paleon- 
tological 
Resources 


Operators cannot knowingly 
disturb, alter, injure, or destroy 
any scientifically important 
paleontological remains. 

Operators must immediately 
notify BLM of any 
paleontological resources 
discovered during operations 
and must leave such 
discoveries intact. BLM has 
10 working days to protect or 
remove discoveries at the 
government's cost, after which 
operations may proceed. 


State standards would be 
used to protect 
paleontological resources. 


Same as Alternative 1 , except 
30 calendar days instead of 
10 working days would be 
allowed for data recovery. 

BLM would determine who 
bears cost of recovery on a 
case-by-case basis. 


Same as Alternative 1 , except 
no time limit on data recovery 
of significant paleontological 
resources. 

Operators would bear cost of 
site recovery. 


No Change. Same as 
Alternative 1 . 


Protecting 

Cave 

Resources 


Not specified. 


Use state standards for 
protecting cave resources. 


Inventories and mitigation 
plans would be required 
before disturbance of cave 
resources. 

Operators must immediately 
notify BLM of any significant 
cave resources found during 
operations and leave such 
discoveries intact. BLM has 
30 calendar days to protect a 
discovery, after which 
operations may proceed. 
BLM would determine who 
bears the cost for protecting 
cave resources. 


Same as Alternative 3, except 
there would be no time limit on 
data recovery of significant 
cave resources 

Operator would bear cost of 
cave resource protection. 


No Change. Same as 
Alternative 1 . 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 






Performance 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: 


Standards 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC Recommendations 


Sub-Issues 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 






American 


Not specified in regulations. 


State standards would be 


Consultation with American 


Plan approval in special status 


No Change. Same as 


Indian 


Consultation with American 


used to protect American 


Indians is specified as part of 


areas, designated through the 


Alternative 1 . 


Traditional 


Indians is used to develop 


Indian resources. BLM would 


Plan review process. Consul- 


land use planning process as 




Cultural 


mitigation on a case-by-case 


help American Indians consult 


tation would be used to 


containing American Indian 




Values, 


basis. 


with states on a specific 


develop mitigation on a case- 


traditional cultural values, 




Practices, and 




project's impacts. 


by-case basis where mitiga- 


would require concurrence by 




Resources 






tion is possible. 


affected American Indians. 




Roads and 


Minimize surface disturbance, 


Roads would be built and 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Roads built for access, 


No Change. Same as 


Structures 


use existing access where 


maintained according to state 


(Consultation not specified for 


haulage, service, or explor- 


Alternative 1 . 




practical, maintain safe 


standards. 


roadcuts greater than 3 feet.) 


ation must not have maximum 






design, follow natural contour, 






sustained grade greater than 






minimize cut and fill. 


Same as Alternative 1 for 
structures on BLM lands. 




10%, with short pitches of less 
than 300 feet to take advan- 






Operators must consult with 






tage of topography not to 






BLM for roadcuts greater than 






exceed a 12% grade. 






3 feet on inside edge. 






Diagonal drainage barriers 
must be placed as follows: 






All structures must be built 






Grade % Max. Spacinq (ft) 






and maintained according to 






0-2 200 






state and local codes. 






3-8 150 






Structures are addressed in 






9-12 80 






separate rules at 43 CFR 






All roads must be reclaimed to 






3715. 






approximately original 
contour. All structures must 
be built and operated 
according to codes and 
removed at the end of 












operations. 





Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 


Performance 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: 


Standards 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC Recommendations 


Sub-Issues 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 






Handling of 


Reclamation must include 


Potentially acid-forming 


Same as Alternatives 1 and 2 


Same as Alternative 3 with 


No Change. Same as 


Potentially 


measures to isolate, remove, 


material must be managed 


plus incorporate ARD policy. 


more design specifics and 


Alternative 1 . 


Acid-Forming, 


or control toxic or deleterious 


according to state require- 


Static or kinetic testing must 


suitability criteria. BLM could 




Toxic, or Other 


materials. 


ments. 


be used to identify and guide 


set criteria to determine if 




Deleterious 






handling and placement of 


deposits are unsuitable for 




Materials 


Other requirements imposed 


No discharges could exceed 


potentially acid-forming 


mining because of acid- 






would be based on site- 


state and federal effluent 


materials. ARD control 


forming and acid-neutralizing 






specific review according to 


limits under the Clean Water 


measures must be fully 


mineral content, climate, and 






BLM policies [acid rock 


Act or state water quality acts. 


integrated with operational 


available control technolo- 






drainage (ARD) policy]. 




procedures, facility design, 
and environmental monitoring 
programs. 

ARD control must focus on 
prevention or control of acid- 
forming reaction. If formation 
of ARD cannot be prevented, 
its potential migration must be 
prevented or controlled. 
Capture and treatment of ARD 
or other undesirable effluent is 
required if source controls and 
migration controls do not 
prove effective. Effluent 
treatment could be used only 
after source control has been 
employed. 


gies. BLM would not approve 
mining of materials exceeding 
these criteria. 

Potentially toxic mine wastes 
(pond sludge, lab wastes) 
could not be disposed of on 
BLM-managed lands. Plans 
proposing treatment periods 
longer than 20 years to meet 
standards are not acceptable 
and would be denied. 





Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 








Performance 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5: 




Standards 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC Recommendations 




Sub-Issues 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 








Leaching and 


Reclamation must include 


Leaching and processing 


Same as Alternatives 1 and 2 


Same as Alternative 3, plus: 


No Change. Same as 




Processing 


measures to isolate, remove, 


operations must be designed, 


plus includes BLM's cyanide 




Alternative 1 . 




Operations 


or control toxic or deleterious 


built, and operated according 


policy: 


Design for probable maximum 






and 


materials. 


to state standards. 


Cyanide facilities must be able 


precipitation event. Secondary 






Impoundment 


Other requirements imposed 
would be based on site- 
specific review according to 
BLM policies [cyanide 
management policy, BLM 
state cyanide management 
plans, and acid rock drainage 
(ARD) policy]. 




to contain maximum operating 
solution with capacity for the 
100-year, 24-hour storm 
event, including snowmelt 
events and expected 
draindown from heaps during 
power outages. Secondary 
containment required for vats, 
tanks, or recovery circuits to 
prevent release of toxic 
solutions. Heaps and other 
solution containment 


containment system around 
vats, tanks, or recovery 
circuits must be adequate to 
contain 110% of the maximum 
contents. All leach pads must 
employ at least two synthetic 
liners with drainage layer over 
at least 24-inches of 
compacted clay. Each 
synthetic liner must be at least 
40 mils thick. The clay liner 
must be compacted to a 












structures must be monitored 


permeability of less than 




05 








for leaks. Cyanide solution 
and heaps must be detoxified 
upon release to the 
environment, at temporary 
closure, or at final 
reclamation. Operations must 
not cause wildlife mortality. 
Exposed cyanide solutions 
must be fenced and covered 
to prevent access by public, 
wildlife, and livestock. 
Neutralization may be used in 
lieu of fencing tailings 
impoundments. 


1X10" 7 cm/sec. Leak detec- 
tion and recovery systems 
must be built for heaps and 
other solution containment 
structures. Ore heap and 
leach pads must have a 
minimum factor of safety of 
1 .3 and be stable during 
construction. Cyanidated 
material must be detoxified at 
temporary or final closure to 
less than 0.2 mg/l WAD 
cyanide, pH between 6.0 and 
8.5, and metal levels less than 
the MCLs. Post-closure 
discharges must achieve 
levels acceptable to the state 
and EPA. 





Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-1. 3809 Regulations Summary of Performance Standards by Alternatives 


Performance 

Standards 

Sub-Issues 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5: 

NRC Recommendations 


Stability, 
Grading, and 
Erosion 
Control 


Reclamation must include 
measures to control erosion, 
landslides, and runoff. 


Stability, grading, and erosion 
control must be achieved 
according to state regulations. 


Erosion must be minimized 
during all phases of opera- 
tions. All disturbed areas 
must be graded or otherwise 
engineered to a stable condi- 
tion to minimize erosion and 
facilitate revegetation. All 
areas must be recontoured to 
blend in with the premining 
natural topography to the 
extent practical. 


Erosion must be controlled so 
that soil loss does not exceed 
2 tons/acre/year. All excava- 
tions (roadcuts, drillsites, etc.) 
Must be recontoured to about 
the original contour. Recon- 
toured waste rock and spent 
ore must be graded to no 
steeper than 3h:1v. 


No Change. Same as 
Alternative 1 . 


Pit Backfilling 

and 

Reclamation 


Not specified. Stable highwall 
might be left where required to 
preserve evidence of 
mineralization. 


Backfilling or reclaiming of 
mine pits would comply with 
state requirements. 


BLM would determine degree 
of backfilling required, if any, 
from a site-specific operator 
demonstration of feasibility 
based on economic, environ- 
mental, and safety considera- 
tions. 

Mitigation would be required 
for pit areas that are not 
backfilled. 


Backfilling of mine pits 
presumed. Only exemption 
from backfilling would be 
where found environmentally 
unsound or unsafe. 

Mitigation would be required 
for pit areas that are not 
backfilled 


No Change. Same as 
Alternative 1 . Amount of 
pit backfilling determined 
on a case-by-case basis. 



Table 2-1, Alternatives Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 


Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


Casual Use 
Definition / 
Suction Dredging 
[3809.5] 


Activities resulting in only negligible 
surface disturbance and not involving 
mechanized earthmoving equipment, 
explosives, or vehicle use in areas 
closed to off-road vehicles. IBLA has 
recently ruled that suction dredging is 
not casual use. 


Cumulative impacts could exceed 
casual use level. 

Regulations would specify that small 
suction dredges could be casual use. 

BLM would not require a Notice or Plan 
for suction dredging if a state permit is 
required and BLM has a MOU with the 
state on suction dredging. 


The Committee favors retaining the BLM distinction for casual use 
operations.. .(pg. 95) 

The Committee believes that BLM. ..is appropriately regulating these 
small suction dredging operations under the current regulations as 
casual use...(pg. 96). 


Definition of 
Project Area 
[3809.5] 


A tract of land upon which operations 
are conducted. Includes the area 
required for building or maintenance of 
roads, transmission lines, pipelines, or 
other means of access. Project area 
may include one or more mining claims, 
but claims must be under one 
ownership. 


Change would not specify that the 
mining claims involved in a project be 
under single ownership. 




Definition of 
Public Lands 

(Lands where the 
regulations would 
apply) 
[3809.5] 


BLM-administered lands subject to the 
Mining Law. Does not include lands 
where only the minerals or surface is 
federal, except that amendments to the 
Stock Raising Homestead Act require 
BLM's involvement when surface owner 
does not consent to mineral 
development. 


Expand definition to include lands where 
mineral estate is federal, subject to the 
Mining Law, and the surface estate is 
private under the Stock Raising 
Homestead Act. Lands with reserved 
minerals from a sale or exchange could 
be open to the operation of the Mining 
Law through a land use plan. 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 



Regulation Topic 



Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1 ) 



Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 



NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 



Unnecessary or 
Undue 
Degradation 
Definition (UUD) 
[3809.5] 



Prudent operator standard. Follow 
"usual, customary, and proficient" 
measures. Mitigate impacts. Comply 
with environ-mental laws. Perform 
reclamation. Do not create a nuisance. 



Replace the prudent operator standard 
with requirement to comply with 
performance standards. 

All activity must be reasonably incident 
to prospecting, mining, or processing 
operations. 

Add to definition: conditions, practices, 
or activities that cause substantial 
irreparable harm to significant scientific, 
cultural, or environmental resource 
values that cannot be effectively 
mitigated. 



Recommendation 15: BLM should prepare guidance manuals and 
conduct staff training to communicate the agency's authority to 
protect valuable resources that may not be protected by other laws, 
(pg. 120) 

[S]The current regulatory definition of UUD does not explicitly provide 
authority to protect valuable or sensitive resources that are not 
protected by other laws. Some resources may deserve to be 
protected from all impacts, while other resources may withstand some 
impacts with associated mitigation, (pgs. 69 & 121) 



Notice vs. Plan of 
Operations 
Threshold 
[3809.11] 



Surface disturbance of less than 5 acres 
per calendar year requires a Notice. A 
Plan is required for more than 5 acres a 
year of disturbance or for any activity 
exceeding casual use in special status 
areas such as areas of critical environ- 
mental concern, the California Desert 
Conservation Area, wild and scenic 
rivers, wilderness areas, and areas 
closed to off-road vehicles. 



Change threshold on the basis of 
division between exploration and mining. 

All mining, milling, and bulk sampling 
over 1 ,000 tons would require Plans. 

Exploration disturbing less than 5 acres 
would require Notices. 

Exploration in special status lands or 
disturbing more than 5 acres would 
require Plans. 

Expand special status lands to include: 
national monuments/conservation areas, 
and lands containing proposed or listed 
T&E species or their critical habitat. 



Recommendation 2: Plans of operations should be required for 
mining and milling operations, other than those classified as casual 
use or exploration activities, even if the area disturbed is less than 5 
acres, (pg. 95) 

...the Committee believes a Plan of operations should generally be 
required for activities involving bulk sampling, (pg. 96) 

[S] With financial assurance the 5-acre threshold appears reasonable 
for requiring exploration disturbance to go to a Plan of operations, 
(pg. 99) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 



Regulation Topic 



Mining Claim 
Validity, Existing 
Rights, and Mine 
Economics 
[3809.100] 



Common Variety 

Minerals 

[3809.101] 



State and Federal 
Government 
Coordination 
[3809.201 - .204] 



Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 



Not addressed in 3809 regs. Validity 
exams required before Plan approval in 
wilderness areas per the 8560 regula- 
tions. BLM has option of determining 
valid existing rights before approving 
Plans in segregated or withdrawn areas. 



Not addressed in 3809 regs. Policy 
provides for holding escrow during 
operations if materials to be mined may 
be of a common variety and subject to 
payment of fair market value. 



Memorandums of understanding 
(MOUs) with each state provide for 
coordination for review, approval, 
bonding, monitoring, and enforcement. 
States may have lead for some program 
elements. Most restrictive requirements 
(BLM or state) apply. 



Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 



Add requirement that validity exams be 
conducted to determine valid existing 
rights before approval of Plans in areas 
withdrawn from operation of mining 
laws. 

Discretion to perform validity exams for 
segregated lands. 



Regulations would provide.for holding 
escrow during operations if materials to 
be mined may be of a common variety 
and subject to payment of fair market 
value. 



When requested, BLM must give states 
the lead where state program is at least 
as strict as BLM requirements. 

BLM must concur on Plan approvals. 
BLM retains inspection and enforcement 
option and NEPA, NHPA, Tribal Gov't- 
Gov't coordination and T&E species 
responsibilities. 



NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 



Given the variation in topography, climate, and area of federal lands 
open to hardrock mining in any state, differences in state laws, and 
local differences in public attitudes toward mining, consistency among 
state MOUs may not be necessary or even desirable, (pg. 52) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as 


Compared to the NRC Report 


Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 




(Alternative 1) 


(Alternative 3) 


(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


Applying 


Not applicable. 


Existing Notices would expire after 2 




Regulation 




years unless bonded and extended. 




Changes to 








Existing 




Existing Notices for mining need not be 




Operations 




refiled as Plans if disturbance area does 




[3809.300] 




not increase. 




[3809.400] 




Existing Plans, pending Plans, or Plan 
modifications are not required to comply 
with the new performance standards if 
filed before the effective date of new 
regulations. All Plans would have to 
meet the bonding requirements within 
1 80 days of the effective date of the new 
regulations. 

New mine facilities added to existing 
Plans or modifications to existing mine 
facilities would have to comply with the 
new regulations unless shown not to be 
practical for economic, environmental, 
safety, or technical reasons. 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 



Regulation Topic 



Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 



Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 



NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 



Notice and Plan 
of Operations 
Contents and 
Processing 
[3809.301 -.313] 
[3809.401 -.412] 



BLM review of Notices required in 15 
calendar days and of Plans in 30 days, 
with option of 60 more days. 

Open-ended time frame for Plans for 
NEPA (EIS), NHPA, and T&E species 
compliance. 

Public comment period on EA if BLM 
determines there is substantial public 
interest. 



Expanded detail on Notice and Plan 
contents. Includes plans for interim 
management during temporary closures. 

Operators required to provide all 
studies/data BLM needs to comply with 
NEPA. 

Review Plan for completeness within 30 
days. Notice time frame is 15 days. 

Clarify review time frames begin when a 
complete Notice or Plan is received. 

Mandatory public comment period on all 
Plans for at least 30 days. 



[S] With adequate bonding for reclamation, small miners should 
receive expedited permits, (pg. 98) 

...the current BLM 3809 regulation with a 15-day response time for 
Notice-level exploration should be maintained... (pg. 98). 

Recommendation 10: From the earliest stages of the NEPA 
process, all agencies with jurisdiction over mining operations or 
affected resources should be required to cooperate effectively in the 
scoping, preparation, and review of environmental impact 
assessments for new mines. Tribes and nongovernmental 
organizations should be encouraged to participate and should 
participate from the earliest stages, (pg. 111) 

[BLM] should develop procedures that will enable them to identify, in 
the review and approval process for plans of operations, the kinds of 
post-mining requirements that are likely to arise and to incorporate 
these into the approved plan of operations, (pg. 120) 

Recommendation 16: BLM. ..should plan for and implement a more 
timely permitting process, while still protecting the environment. 
(P9-122) 

[S]The lead agency should set and achieve deadlines and have 
sufficient qualified staff to do so. ...Recommendations that support 
more efficient reviews and permitting include 1, 2, 6, 10, 11, & 12. 
Information on the time involved in recent reviews should be compiled 
and studied to identify causes for delays, (pg. 123) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as 


Compared to the NRC Report 




Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 




(Alternative 1) 


(Alternative 3) 


(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


Modifications 


Operator-initiated modifications are 


Eliminates requirement for BLM to 


Recommendation 4: BLM. ..should revise their regulations to 


[3803.330-331] 


processed like original Notice or Plan. 


demonstrate unforeseen issues that 


provide more effective criteria for modifications to Plans, where 


[3809.430-431] 


Agency-required modifications must 


warrant modification. 


necessary, to protect federal lands, (pg. 99) 




show need and that the issue was 


BLM may require operator to modify 


Staff comments and documents reviewed by the Committee suggest 




unforeseen at the time of initial Plan 


Notice or Plan to prevent unnecessary 


that the regulations should be modified to improve criteria for 




approval. 


or undue degradation (UUD). Only test 


modifications, require periodic reviews, and /or specify expiration 






is that the modification is needed to 


dates for approved plans of operations to assure the opportunity to 






prevent UUD. 


adjust practices where needed, (pg. 100) 






Plan modifications required at final 


The Committee did not determine if plans of operations should be 






closure to address unexpected 


reviewed or reopened at predetermined intervals, (pg 101) 






conditions or new information. 


Financial assurance instruments should also be updated as 
conditions change that might affect the levels of bonding or other 








forms of financial assurance, (pg. 101) 



to 

w 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 



Regulation Topic 



Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1 ) 



Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 



NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 



Temporary or 

Permanent 

Closure 

[3809.334 

3809.424] 



Site must be maintained in safe and 
clean condition. May require removal of 
all structures and equipment and 
reclaiming of site after an unspecified 
period of nonoperation. 



Must follow interim management plans 
during periods of temporary closure. 

Notices expire after 2 years. BLM may 
consider the project abandoned, 
depending on time and condition of site 
and equipment. 

Plans are similar to Notices. After 5 
consecu-tive years of inactivity the Plan 
may be terminated. 



Recommendation 5: BLM. ..should adopt consistent regulations that 
a) define the conditions under which mines will be considered to be 
temporarily closed; b) require that interim management plans be 
submitted for such periods; and c) define the conditions under which 
temporary closure becomes permanent and all reclamation closure 
requirements must be completed, (pg.101) 

Recommendation 14: BLM. ..should plan for and assure the long- 
term post-closure management of mine sites on federal lands, (pg 
118). 

[S]BLM should consider land uses appropriate for closed and 
reclaimed mines, and whether any uses should be controlled or 
precluded. Management requirements need to address and assure: 
future mineral access, maintaining measures to protect the public 
from safety hazards, measures to assure integrity of closed waste 
units including monitoring and repair, long-term environmental 
monitoring with corrective measures programs, operation and 
maintenance of water treatment facilities needed to maintain water 
quality compliance over the long term, and financial assurance to 
ensure implementation of these post-closure management 
requirements, (pg. 119) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 



Regulation Topic 



Financial 
Guarantee 
Requirements 
(Bonding) 
[3809.500 - .599] 



Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 



Bonds required only for Plans at BLM's 
discretion. Expired policy limits bond 
amounts to $1 ,000/acre for exploration 
and $2,000/acre for mining, except for 
areas with cyanide use or ARD potential 
which are bonded at 100% estimated 
BLM reclamation cost. 

Use state bonding programs to meet 
these requirements through 
agreements. 



Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 



Actual-cost bonding required for all 
Notices in addition to Plans. 

Operator would give initial reclamation 
cost estimate. 

Financial guarantee must cover 100% of 
the reclamation costs, including any 
postclosure water treatment or other site 
maintenance. Existing Plans must 
provide financial assurance within 180 
days of effective date of new regulations 

Equivalent state bonding instruments 
could be used to meet requirements but 
must be redeemable by the Secretary of 
the Interior. 

Discontinue accepting corporate 
guarantees. 



NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 



Financial Guarantees - The various finanacial mechanisms should be 
secure and sufficiently liquid to allow responses to near-term needs. 
(P9 61) 

Based on the Committee's findings, inadequate protection of the 
public and the environment caused by current financial assurance 
procedures is a gap in the regulatory programs, (pg. 65) 

Financial risks to the public and environmental risks to the land exist 
whenever secure financial assurances are lacking, (pg. 90) 

Recommendation 1: Financial assurance should be required for 
reclamation of disturbances to the environment caused by all mining 
activities beyond those classified as casual use, even if the area 
disturbed is less than five acres, (pg.93). The objective of this 
recommendation is to guarantee financial assurance for all significant 
disturbances, (pg. 94) 

Standard bond amounts for certain types of activities on specific 
kinds of terrain should be established by [BLM]. ..A set of activity-and 
terrain-dependent standard bond amounts. ..should be established for 
typical activities... Standard bond amounts... should be used in lieu of 
detailed calculations.. .based on the engineering design of a mine or 
mill. (pgs. 94-95) ...the Committee encourages the use of bond pools 
to lessen the financial burden on small miners, (pg. 95) 

The Committee does not intend that bonding of exploration activities 
result in a federal action that would automatically trigger an EA or 
EIS.(pg.99) 

Appropriate types of financial assurance should be investigated for 
long-term water treatment (pg.120). 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 


Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1 ) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


Inspection and 

Monitoring 

[3809.600] 


Operator must allow BLM to inspect 
operations. Policy is for inspections four 
times annually where cyanide is used or 
significant potential exists for acid rock 
drainage and twice annually for all other 
operations. Monitoring programs are 
developed during Plan review. The 
operator conducts environmental testing 
(water, air, soil, etc.) and submits the 
results to BLM. BLM may take check 
samples during inspections. 


Same as Alternative 1 . Add: Mandate 
current policy of inspections four times 
annually where cyanide is used or the 
potential exists for acid rock drainage. 

Upon prior notification to BLM, in certain 
circumstances, may allow the public to 
annually tour mining operations. 


Post-Closure Issues.. .An important part of long-term management will 
be monitoring, inspection, and low-level maintenance of reclamation 
features, such as soil covers, vegetation, closed impoundments, 
waste rock piles, and water diversion structures. In some cases the 
quality of surface water or groundwater must also be monitored, (pg. 
84) 


Type and 
Adequacy of 
Penalties for Non- 
compliance 
[3809.700] 


BLM issues notices of noncompliance 
and records of noncompliance. Federal 
injunctions and criminal prosecution 
may be used. 


Same as Alternative 1 . Add: BLM would 
issue discretion-ary administrative 
penalties ($5,000/day), suspensions, 
revocation of Plan approval, and 
nullification of Notice for failure to 
comply with enforce-ment orders. 

Under MOUs, BLM would refer certain 
noncompliance actions to other federal 
and state agencies for enforcement. 


Recommendation 6: ...BLM... should have both (1) authority to 
issue administrative penalties for violations of their regulatory 
requirements, subject to appropriate due process, and (2) clear 
procedures for referring activities to other federal and state agencies 
for enforcement, (pg. 102) 


Appeals Process 
[3809.800] 


BLM decisions must be appealed within 
30 days. 

Operator must appeal to BLM state 
director, whose decisions may be 
appealed to the Interior Board of Land 
Appeals (IBLA). 

Third-party appeals of BLM decisions 
are made directly to IBLA. 

Decisions appealed to IBLA are in full 
force and effect unless IBLA grants a 
written request for a stay. 


Both operator and third-party appeals 
would be to IBLA. Sfafe director 
appeals would be provided for. 

All decisions would be in full force and 
effect unless a the reviewing entity 
(either state director or IBLA) grants a 
written request for a stay. 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 


Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


General 
Performance 
Standard 
Requirements 
[3809.420] 


Prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation. Follow requirements at 
3809.1 -3(d). 

Other site-specific requirements may be 
developed during individual project 
review. 


Outcome-based standards with site- 
specific allowances. 

Includes BLM cyanide and acid rock 
drainage requirements. Use proper 
equipment, devices, and practices. 

Follow reasonable and customary 
sequence of exploration, development, 
and reclamation. 

Must conduct activities to prevent 
substantial irreparable and unmitigatable 
harm to significant resources. 


Recommendation 9: BLM. ..should continue to base their permitting 
decisions on the site-specific evaluation process provided by NEPA. 
The... [agency] should continue to use comprehensive performance- 
based standards rather than using rigid, technically prescriptive 
standards.. ..[BLM] should regularly update technical and policy 
guidance documents to clarify how statutes and regulations should be 
interpreted and enforced, (pg. 108) 

Although mining operations are regulated by a variety of 
environmental protection laws... these laws may not adequately 
protect all the valuable environmental resources.. Examples of 
resources that may not be adequately protected include springs, 
seeps, riparian habitat, ephemeral streams, and certain types of 
wildlife, (pg. 121) 


Land Use Plans 


Not addressed. 


Consistent with the Mining Law, 
operations and postmining land use 
must comply with the land use plan. 


Note: these recommendations are directed at BLM's planning process 
and not at any direct change in the 3809 regulations. 

Recommendation 13: BLM... should identify, regularly update, and 
make available to the public, information identifying those parts of 
federal lands that will require special consideration in land use 
decisions because of natural and cultural resources or special 
environmental sensitivities, (pg. 117) 

...provisions should be made to amend or clarify, as necessary, 
applicable land use plans to reflect the post-closure requirements of 
the site and to consider institutional, management, staffing, and other 
needs of the post-closure mine site, (pg.120) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 


Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1 ) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


Surface and 
Ground Water 
Protection 


All operators must comply with federal 
and state water quality standards. 

Exploration operations and drill hole 
plugging are not specified. 


Same as Alternative 1 , plus pit water 
quality must not endanger wildlife, public 
water supplies, or users. 

To meet this standard, operation and 
reclamation practices that minimize 
water pollution and changes in flow 
would be used in preference to water 
treatment or replacement. 

All drill cuttings and mud must be 
contained onsite. All exploration drill 
holes must be plugged to prevent mixing 
of waters from aquifers, impacts to 
beneficial uses, downward water loss, or 
upward loss from artesian conditions. 
Bore holes must be plugged on the 
surface to prevent direct inflow of 
surface water and to eliminate the open 
hole as a hazard. 


The Committee concluded that pit lake water quality should be 
subject to regulation and not simply (eft to chance. However, the 
committee had difficulty identifying a universal approach suitable for 
the classification of all pit lakes... Project approvals should clearly 
establish acceptable post-closure water quality conditions appropriate 
to long-term use of the site and those that provide adequate 
protection for ground and surface waters, as well as wildlife and 
waterfowl, (pg. 109). 

Although mining operations are regulated by a variety of 
environmental protection laws. ..these laws may not adequately 
protect all the valuable environmental resources. .Examples of 
resources that may not be adequately protected include springs, 
seeps, riparian habitat, ephemeral streams, and certain types of 
wildlife, (pg. 121) 


Wetlands and 
Riparian Area 
Protection 


Not specified. State and 404 permits 
(from the Army Corps of Engineers) 
must be acquired for dredging or filling 
in U.S. waters. 


Same as Alternative 1 with specific site- 
selection criteria added: 

Operator must (1) avoid locating 
operations in wetland and riparian areas 
where possible, (2) minimize impacts to 
wetlands and riparian areas, and (3) 
mitigate damage to wetland and riparian 
areas through measures such as 
restoration or offsite replacement. 


Use of such [advisory] guidelines is consistent with the principle that 
regulatory decisions should be based on site-specific evaluations and 
conditions. For instance, in many areas of the western U.S., healthy 
riparian habitat is scarce and has high value for wildlife or as a buffer 
to protect stream quality. In these cases, the flexible regulatory 
framework would suggest that riparian areas should be valued and be 
provided reasonable protection in site-specific decisions (pgs. 68-69). 

Although mining operations are regulated by a variety of 
environmental protection laws... these laws may not adequately 
protect all the valuable environmental resources. .Examples of 
resources that may not be adequately protected include springs, 
seeps, riparian habitat, ephemeral streams, and certain types of 
wildlife, (pg. 121) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 




Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 




Soil or Growth 
Media Handling 


Where reasonably practicable, topsoil 
must be saved and reapplied to 
disturbed areas after they have been 
reshaped. 


Topsoil or other growth media must be 
removed from lands to be disturbed and 
segregated and preserved for later use 
in revegetation during reclamation. If 
topsoil or growth media are of such poor 
quality so as not to be reasonably 
effective in sustaining revegetation, 
other strata or more suitable growth 
media must be removed, segregated, or 
preserved in a like manner. 




t£ 


Revegetation 
Requirements 


Where reasonable and practicable, 
disturbed areas must be revegetated. 
Revegetation is to provide a diverse 
vegetation cover. Revegetation is a 
component of the requirement to 
rehabilitate wildlife habitat. Prohibition 
on creation of a nuisance used to 
address noxious weed control. 


Same as Alternative 1 with more 
specifics on outcome. All disturbed 
lands must be revegetated to establish a 
stable and long-lasting cover that is self- 
sustaining and comparable in both 
diversity and density to preexisting 
natural vegetation. Use native species 
to the extent feasible and establish 
success according to the schedule in 
the reclamation plan. Operations must 
prevent and control noxious weed 
infestations. 






Fish, Wildlife and 
Plant Protection 
and Habitat 
Restoration 


Operators must act to prevent harm to 
threatened and endangered species and 
their habitats that might be affected by 
operations. 

Reclamation must include rehabilitating 
fisheries and wildlife habitat. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 

Operators must minimize disturbances 
and adverse impacts to fish, wildlife, and 
related environmental values. 

All processing solutions, reagents, or 
mine drainage toxic to wildlife must be 
fenced or netted to prevent wildlife 
access. 


Although mining operations are regulated by a variety of 
environmental protection laws... these laws may not adequately 
protect all the valuable environmental resources.. Examples of 
resources that may not be adequately protected include springs, 
seeps, riparian habitat, ephemeral streams, and certain types of 
wildlife, (pg. 121) 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as 


Compared to the NRC Report 






Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 






(Alternative 1) 


(Alternative 3) 


(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 




Protecting 


National Historic Preservation Act 


Same as Alternative 1 , except 30 






Cultural 


Section 1 06 process is used to develop 


calendar days instead of 10 working 






Resources 


mitigation for cultural resources found 
before Plan approval. 

Operators cannot knowingly disturb, 
alter, injure, or destroy any historical or 
archaeological site, structure, building, 
object, or cultural site discovered during 
operations. 

Operators must immediately notify BLM 
of any cultural resources found during 
operations and must leave such 
discoveries intact. BLM has 10 working 
days to protect or remove the discovery 
at the government's expense, after 


days would be allowed for data 
recovery. 

BLM would determine who bears the 
cost of recovery on a case-by-case 
basis. 




c 




which operations may proceed. 






l_> 


Protecting 


Operators cannot knowingly disturb, 


Same as Alternative 1 , except 30 






Paleontological 


alter, injure, or destroy any scientifically 


calendar days instead of 10 working 






Resources 


important paleontological remains. 

Operators must immediately notify BLM 
of any paleontological resources 
discovered during operations and must 
leave such discoveries intact. BLM has 
10 working days to protect or remove 
the discoveries at the government's 
expense, after which operations may 
proceed. 


days would be allowed for data 
recovery. 

BLM would determine who bears the 
cost of recovery on a case-by-case 
basis. 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 




Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 




Protecting Cave 
Resources 


Not specified. 


Inventories and mitigation plans would 
be required before disturbance of cave 
resources. 

Operators must immediately notify BLM 
of any significant cave resources found 
during opera-tions and leave such 
discoveries intact. BLM has 30 calendar 
days to protect a discovery, after which 
operations may proceed. BLM would 
determine who bears the cost for 
protecting cave resources. 






American Indian 
Traditional 
Cultural Values, 
Practices, and 
Resources 


Not specified in the regulations. 
Consultation with American Indians is 
used to develop mitigation on a case-by- 
case basis. 


Consultation with American Indians is 
specified as part of the Plan review 
process. Consultation would be used to 
develop mitigation on a case-by-case 
basis where mitigation is possible. 


Recommendation 10: ... Tribes ... should be encouraged to 
participate [in new mine permitting] and should participate from the 
earliest stages, (pg. 111) 


c 


Roads and 
Structures 


Minimize surface disturbance, use 
existing access where practical, 
maintain safe design, follow natural 
contours, minimize cuts and fills. 
Operators must consult with BLM for 
roadcuts greater than 3 feet on the 
inside edge. 

All structures must be built and 
maintained according to state and local 
codes. Structures are addressed in 
separate rules at 43 CFR 3715. 


Same as Alternative 1 . (Consultation 
not specified for roadcuts greater than 3 
feet.) 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 





Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as 


Compared to the NRC Report 






Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 






(Alternative 1 ) 


(Alternative 3) 


(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 




Handling of 


Reclamation must include measures to 


Same as Alternatives 1 and 2 plus: 






Potentially Acid- 


isolate, remove, or control toxic or 


Incorporate ARD policy. Static or kinetic 






Forming, Toxic, 


deleterious materials. 


testing must be used to identify and 






or Other 




guide the handling and placement of 






Deleterious 


Other requirements imposed would be 


potentially acid-forming materials. ARD 






Materials 


based on site-specific review according 
to BLM policies [acid rock drainage 
(ARD) policy]. 


control measures must be fully 
integrated with operational procedures, 
facility design, and environmental 
monitoring programs. 

ARD control must focus on prevention or 
control of the acid-forming reaction. If 
formation of ARD cannot be prevented, 
its potential migration must be 
prevented or controlled. Capture and 
treatment of ARD or other undesirable 
effluent is required if source controls and 




o 






migration controls do not prove effective. 




ro 






Effluent treatment could be used only 
after source control has been employed. 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 


Regulation Topic 


Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1 ) 


Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 


NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 


Leaching and 
Processing 
Operations and 
Impoundmnts 


Reclamation must include measures to 
isolate, remove, or control toxic or 
deleterious materials. 

Other requirements imposed would be 
based on site-specific review according 
to BLM policies (cyanide management 
policy, BLM state cyanide management 
plans, and ARD policy) 


Same as Alternatives 1 and 2 plus 
includes BLM's cyanide policy: 
Cyanide facilities must be able to 
contain the maximum operating solution 
with capacity for the 100-year, 24-hour 
storm event, including snowmelt events 
and expected draindown from heaps 
during power outages. Secondary 
containment required for vats, tanks, or 
recovery circuits to prevent the release 
of toxic solutions. Heaps and other 
solution containment structures must be 
monitored for leaks. Cyanide solution 
and heaps must be detoxified upon 
release to the environment, temporary 
closure, or at final reclamation. 
Operations must not cause wildlife 
mortality. Exposed cyanide solutions 
must be fenced and covered to prevent 
access by the public, wildlife, and 
livestock. Neutralization may be used in 
lieu of fencing tailings impoundments. 




Stability, Grading 
and Erosion 
Control 


Reclamation must include measures to 
control erosion, landslides, and runoff. 


Erosion must be minimized during all 
phases of operations. All disturbed 
areas must be graded or otherwise 
engineered to a stable condition to 
minimize erosion and facilitate 
revegetation. All areas must be 
recontoured to blend in with the 
premining natural topography to the 
extent practical. 





Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-2. Existing and Final Proposed 3809 Regulations as Compared to the NRC Report 



Regulation Topic 



Existing 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 1) 



Proposed Final 3809 Regulations 
(Alternative 3) 



NRC Study Committee Conclusions or Recommendations 
(From: Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands, NRC 1999) 



Pit Backfilling 
and Reclamation 



Not specified. Stable highwall might be 
left where required to preserve evidence 
of mineralization. 



BLM would determine degree of 
backfilling required, if any, from a site- 
specific operator demonstration of 
feasibility based on economic, 
environmental, and safety 
considerations. 

Mitigation would be required for pit 
areas that are not backfilled. 



If backfilling of mines is to be considered, it should be determined on 
a case-by-case basis as was concluded by the COSMAR report 
(NRC, 1979). Site specific conditions are too variable for prescriptive 
regulation (pg. 90). 



Page numbers are from the National Resource Council's Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands (NRC 1999). 

Excerpts are taken nearly verbatim from the above cited report. "[S]" denotes where report text has been summarized. 

A blank in the right-hand column shows no specific NRC conclusions or recommendations on the existing 3809 regulations or program. NRC made several general conclusions: (1) 
Existing regulations are generally well coordinated, although some changes are necessary, and (2) Improvements in the implementation of the existing regulations present the 
greatest opportunity for improving environmental protection and the efficiency of the regulatory process. 



Table 2-2, 3809 Regulations - NRC Report Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



o 

01 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 






MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT 






Common to all 


Increases in cost to mineral 


development will continue due to changing regulatory environment. 




Alternatives 












Casual Use 


High-use areas could 


Depending on the state. 


High-use areas would be 


All casual use operators would 


Same as Alternative 1 . 




continue to endure cumu- 


program, operations might or 


reviewed, and if cumulative 


have to contact BLM to deter- 






lative impacts that would 


might not be reviewed. 


impacts are not negligible, 


mine the potential level of 






cause unnecessary or 




they could be protected by 


operation, casual use or Plan 






undue degradation. 


Disturbance might not be 


land use plan designation. 


of Operations, possibly delay- 








reclaimed. Operations would 


Notices or Plans would be 


ing operations and increasing 








not be delayed or added 


required. 


operation costs. Access of 








costs incurred. 


Requiring suction dredge 
operators to contact BLM 
would delay activity, increase 
operation costs, and restrict 
access of small miners and 
recreationists to minerals. 


small miners and recreationists 
to minerals would be restricted. 




Notices 


Notices would not be 


Depending on the state 


Notices only for exploration 


No Notices would be allowed. 


Same as Alternative 3. 




subjected to bonding, and 


program, operations might or 


would drive up costs for small 








some future operations 


might not be reviewed. 


mine operators. 








might not be reclaimed. 


Disturbance might not be 
reclaimed. Operations would 
not be delayed or added 
costs incurred. 


Bonding of Notices would 
increase exploration costs and 
reduce exploration activity. 







Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



o 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 








Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 






MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT (conti 


nued) 




Plans of 


Not bonding all Plans of 


Depending on the State 


Using a Plan of Operations to 


Requiring a Plan of Operations 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Operations 


Operation at 100% of 


program, operations might or 


review all mines would 


for all activity other than casual 






reclamation costs could 


might not be reviewed, and 


increase likelihood that 


use would increase BLM 


Same as Alternative 1 




result in insufficient funds 


environmental concerns 


operations would meet the 


workload and industry cost and 


for common variety 




to perform reclamation if 


might not get identified. 


performance standards. 


cause delays. 


minerals and operations 




an operator files 


Bonding might not be 






in withdrawn lands. 




bankruptcy or refuses to 


adequate to ensure 


Costs and workload for 


Bonds would be adequate to 






perform reclamation. 


reclamation performance. 


operators and BLM would 
increase. 


ensure reclamation 
performance and fund 






Common variety minerals 


Same as Alternative 1 . 




remediation of unplanned 






could be mined under the 




Bonds for reclamation should 


events. 






Mining Law, and Federal 




be adequate to ensure 








Government could lose 




reclamation. 


Requiring validity exams for all 






royalties. 




Potential royalties for common 


common variety minerals and 
withdrawn land areas before • 






Withdrawn lands could 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


variety minerals would be 


operations are approved would 






have operations proceed 




protected through 


increase costs to industry, 






in sensitive areas. 




establishment of an escrow 
account. 

Validity exams would ensure 
that surface disturbance did 
not occur in withdrawn lands 
without prior valid existing 
mining claims. 


increase BLM workload and 
delay operations. 





Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



o 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1: 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 






MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT (conti 


nued) 




Inspection and 


Inspection would be 


Depending on the state 


Inspection would be 


Operations would have to hire 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Enforcement 


based on policies, and 


program, inspection and 


standardized, and the 


a third-party contractor to do 






enforcement would 


enforcement might be 


enforcement procedure would 


some of inspections, and 






continue to be difficult. 


limited. State organizations 


have the additional penalties 


penalties would be assessed 






Operation might not have 


might not have resources to 


tool to be used if needed. 


automatically, costing industry 






to reclaim because of 


enforce requirements. 


Reclamation and on-the- 


time and money and increas- 






enforcement delays. 




ground activities would be 
responded to in a timely 
manner. 


ing BLM's workload. Relation- 
ships between BLM and 
industry could be strained. 




Exploration 


There would be no 


Exploration costs could 


Exploration operations would 


Exploration projects would be 


Exploration operations 




change to the costs for 


decrease depending on state 


continue to explore and not 


delayed and costs would 


would continue to 




exploration activity. 


program requirements. 


experience large delays. The 


increase. Operators would find 


explore and not 






There would be fewer 


requirement would increase 


it difficult to modify the project 


experience large delays. 






limitations on access to 


the costs of operations and 


in a timely manner. 


The requirement would 






mineral exploration areas. 


could economically harm 




increase the costs of 








small independent geologists 


Increased costs could 


operations and could 








and prospectors, who might 


economically harm small 


economically harm small 








also have difficulty obtaining 


independent geologists and 


independent geologists 








bonds. 


prospectors. 


and prospectors, who 
might also have difficulty 








Suction dredge operations 


Since operations could be 


obtaining bonds. 








would decrease, or, 


denied because of 










alternatively, trespass from 


environmental concerns, the 










suction dredging would 


uncertainty of development of 










increase on public lands. 


mineral properties could make 
industry unwilling to take the 
financial risk, even for 
exploration. 





Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



o 
co 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 


MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT (continued) 




Mining 


Mining would not undergo 


Cost of operations could 


Requiring Plans of Operations 


Requiring Plans of Operations 


Requiring Plans of 




added costs or delays. 


decrease depending on the 


for all mining would increase 


for all activity would increase 


Operations for all mining 






state program. There could 


costs and delays in projects. 


costs and delays in projects. 


would increase costs 






be fewer or more limitations 


Many small operators could 


Many small operators would 


and delays in projects. 






in requirements and in 


have difficulty providing a 


have difficulty providing a bond 


Many small operators 






access. 


bond for Plan-level operations 


for Plan-level operations and 


could have difficulty 








and meeting the 


meeting the environmental 


providing a bond for 








environmental requirements. 


requirements. Bonds would be 


Plan-level operations 








Bonds would be more difficult 


more difficult for larger 


and meeting the 








for larger operators to obtain 


operators to obtain because 


environmental 








because corporate guarantees 


corporate guarantees would 


requirements. Bonds 








would be discontinued. 


discontinued. 


would be more difficult 
for larger operators to 








The uncertainty of 


The uncertainty of development 


obtain because 








development of mineral 


of mineral properties because 


corporate guarantees 








properties because of the 


of the substantial irreparable 


would discontinued. 








substantial irreparable harm 


harm provision could make 










provision could make industry 


industry unwilling to take the 










unwilling to take the financial 


financial risk, even for 










risk, even for exploration. 


exploration. 








CHANGES IN MINERAL ACTIVITY 






Casual Use/ 


Current levels not 


No change. 


5 to 1 0% overall decrease. 


40 to 50% overall decrease. 


No change. 


Suction 


established. 










Dredging 






1 to 25% decrease in suction 
dredging. 


70 to 90% decrease in suction 
dredging. 




Exploration 


7,560 Notices 


7,560 - 7,940 Notice level 


6,050 - 6,800 Notices 


6,910 -6,750 Plans 


7,180 -7,560 Notices 




870 Plans 


870 -910 Plan level 


700 - 740 Plans 




830 - 870 Plans 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



o 

CO 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 
Resource or 
Activity 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5 

NRC 

Recommendations 


CHANGES IN MINERAL ACTIVITY (continued) 


Placer Mines 
(20yrs.) 


2,520 Notices 
750 Plans 


2,650 - 2,520 Notice level 
790 - 750 Plan level 


Notices 

2,650 - 2,980 Plans 


2,650 - 2,330 Plans 


Notices 

2,980 -3,140 Plans 


Open Pit 
Mines (20yrs.) 


1 ,080 Notices 
1,050 Plans 


1,080 -1,130 Notice level 
1,050 -1,100 Plan level 


Notices 

1 ,500 - 1 ,900 Plans 


530 - 1 ,070 Plans 


Notices 

2,080 -1,970 Plans 


Underground 
Mines (20yrs.) 


120 Notices 
150 Plans 


120 -130 Notice level 
150 -160 Plan level 


Notices 

220 - 250 Plans 


210 -230 Plans 


Notices 

240 - 270 Plans 


Industrial 
Mines (20yrs.) 


240 Notices 
60 Plans 


240 - 250 Notice level 
60 - 70 Plan level 


Notices 

250 - 280 Plans 


235 - 270 Plans 


Notices 

270 - 290 Plans 


Mill Site 

Operations 

(20yrs.) 


480 Notices 
120 Plans 


480 - 500 Notice level 
120 -130 Plan level 


Notices 

490 - 550 Plans 


430 - 480 Plans 


Notices 

540 - 580 Plans 


Notices and 
Plans / year 


600 Notices 
150 Plans 


600 - 630 Operations < 5 ac. 
150-160 Operations > 5 ac. 


302 - 340 Notices 
290 - 330 Plans 


Notices 

480 - 580 Plans 


360 - 380 Notices 
340 - 360 Plans 


Acres 
Disturbed / yr. 


8,700 


8,700 - 9,200 


6,700 - 7,580 


4,800 - 6,440 


8,120-9,630 


HAZARDOUS MATERIALS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT 


Mine Waste 


Mine waste might not be 
reclaimed properly and 
could cause contamina- 
tion. 


Same as Alternative 1 , but 
BLM might not be aware of 
mine waste left on site. 


Mine waste could be 
reclaimed to control potential 
contamination. 


Mine waste (certain types of 
pond sludge, lab wastes, etc.) 
would be removed from public 
lands. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 


CLIMATE AND AIR QUALITY 


Climate and 


No impacts to climate. 


Similar to Alternative 1 . A 


Similar to Alternative 1 . A 


Similar to Alternative 1 . A 


Similar to Alternative 1 . 


Air Quality 


Impacts to air quality 


cumulative increase in 


cumulative decrease in overall 


cumulative decrease in overall 


A cumulative decrease 




would continue at current 


overall emissions could 


emissions could result from a 


emissions could result in up to 


in overall emissions 




levels. Direct impacts 


result from a 5% increase in 


1 5% decrease in mineral 


a 20% decrease in acreage 


could result from up to a 




include noise; dust; 


mining. All operations would 


activity. All operations would 


disturbed and a 30% decrease 


10% decrease in mining. 




gaseous and particulate 


continue to comply with local, 


continue to comply with local, 


in open pit mining. All opera- 


All operations would 




emissions; exhaust from 


state, tribal, and federal air 


state, tribal, and federal air 


tions would continue to comply 


continue to comply with 




blasting, extracting, 


quality laws, standards, and 


quality laws, standards, and 


with local, state, tribal, and 


local, state, tribal, and 




crushing, milling, and 


implementa-tion plans. 


implementation plans. 


federal air quality laws, 


federal air quality laws, 




hauling. Most impacts 






standards, and implementation 


standards, and 




would exist only during 






plans. 


implementation plans. 




life of operations. All 












operations would 












continue to comply with 












all air quality laws, 












standards, and 












implementation plans. 











Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 


WATER RESOURCES 


Water Quality 


Mining deeper into the 


Variable, depending on state 


Reduced risk of degraded 


Alternative 4 has the lowest 


Provides for improved 




sulfide ore zone could 


program. 


groundwater quality through 


potential for water quality 


water quality protection 




result in water quality 




backfilling, grouting of 


impacts of all alternatives. 


by establishing pit water 




problems with pit lakes 




exploration holes, and use of 




quality conditions 




and migration of 




source controls for handling 


Pit lake impacts on water 


suitable for the long-term 




contaminants into 




acid-forming materials. 


quality would decline due to pit 


use of the site and 




aquifers. Potential acid 






backfilling and requirement that 


affected ground and 




rock drainage and 




Improved requirements for 


pit lakes not exceed acute 


surface waters. 




leachate might enter 




baseline data collection and 


toxicity standards. Design 






surface or ground water. 




increased ground water 


controls would reduce the risk 


Planning for long-term 




Tailings and process 




monitoring programs would 


of contamination from leaks or 


closure or treatment 




pond runoff or leakage 




provide early detection and 


facility failures. 


would help mitigate or 




could enter surface water 




mitigation of potential impacts. 




avoid later problems. 




and cause heavy metals 






Decreased mining activity 






contamination. Character 






would reduce the potential for 






of local aquifer could 






impacts to water quality. 






change due to physical 












removal and replacement 












of geologic material in 












backfilling. 










Water 


Dewatering could cause 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Dewatering effects would 


Dewatering effects would be 


Dewatering effects 


Quantity 


some streams and 




continue about the same as 


similar to Alternatives 1 and 3, 


would be similar to 




springs to dry up and 




under Alternative 1 . 


but possibly reduced with fewer 


Alternatives 1 and 3. 




increase streamflow in 






operations. 






other streams, altering 












stream morphology and 












character. Some streams 












might be diverted from 












channels and rerouted. 











Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 


Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 








Affected 
Resource or 
Activity 


Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 


Alternative 2: 
State Management 


Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 


Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 


Alternative 5 

NRC 

Recommendations 


SOILS 


Acres/Year 
Soil Disturbed 


8,700 


8,700 to 9,260 


6,700 to 7,580 


4,800 to 6,440 


8,120 to 9,630 


Soil Salvage 
and 

Reclamation 
Availability 


Soil salvage limited to 
topsoil. Reclaimed 
surface may hot support 
the same plants or 
diversity as before 
disturbance. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Soil salvage limited to topsoil 
or replacement soil. 
Reclaimed surface may not 
support the same plants or 
diversity as before 
disturbance, but better overall 
plant production expected. 


Soil salvage includes topsoil 
and subsoil. Reclaimed 
surface should support the 
plants and diversity similar to 
the preexisting plant 
community. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Post- 
Reclamation 
Erosion 
Control and 
Soil Loss 
Potential 


Stability requirement 
would generally limit soil 
loss. Emphasis on 
revegetation would 
reduce erosion. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Stability requirement would 
generally limit soil loss. 
Greater emphasis on revege- 
tation would reduce erosion. 


Regrading to 3h:1v slopes and 
increased revegetation 
requirements would reduce soil 
loss. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 




VEGETATION 


Acres /Year 

Vegetation 

Disturbed 


8,700 


8,700 to 9,260 


6,700 to 7,580 


4,800 to 6,440 


8,120 to 9,630 


Reclamation 
Timing and 
Diversity- 
Density 


Quick reestablishing of 
vegetation cover (except 
in Alaska), long-term 
increase in diversity, and 
use of native species. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Quick reestablishing of 
vegetation cover would result 
in more timely reestablishing 
of a diverse native cover. 


Would ensure establishing of 
native cover to at least 90% of 
adjacent undisturbed lands 
within 10 years. 


Same as Alternative 1 . 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 


Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 






VEGETATION (continued) 






Noxious Weed 


Long-term improvement 


Lack of comprehensive effort 


Greater emphasis on weed 


Mandatory weed control would 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Infestation of 


in weed control as 


to control weeds would likely 


control would reduce 


reduce or eliminate weed 




Disturbance 


policies are implemented. 


result in increased 
infestations. 


infestations. 


infestations. 






RIPARIAN-WETLAND RESOURCES 


Mitigation/ 


Nature, duration, and 


Nature of riparian-wetland 


Lost or degraded riparian- 


The nature of unavoidable 


Riparian-wetland areas 


Replacement 


extent of riparian-wetland 


disturbance would be similar 


wetland areas would be 


disturbance would be similar to 


would receive slightly 


and Protection 


disturbance would 


to Alternative 1 . 


reclaimed or mitigated to 


that under Alternative 3. 


more protection than 




continue as in past. 




achieve proper functioning 




under Alternative 1 due 






Impacts to riparian-wetland 


condition (PFC). BLM would 


The time requirement to meet 


to the more stringent 




Mitigation not required for 


areas meeting BLM criteria 


set recovery time for PFC. In 


PFC, the greater restoration: 


performance standard. 




BLM-defined riparian- 


would likely not be mitigated 


the long term no more 


disturbance mitigation required, 






wetland habitat but 


unless state has specific 


riparian-wetland habitat or 


and ability to require baseline 


Nonjurisdictional wet- 




generally conducted with 


requirement to do so. 


function would be lost. 


data would offset the uncertain 


lands would not be 




fish and wildlife 




Mitigation would not address 


nature of mitigation and loss of 


protected, and restoring 




rehabilitation. 




problems of temporal or 
spacial loss of function. 


temporal and spacial function. 


riparian areas to PFC 
would not be required by 




Mitigation usually con- 




BLM's ability to require 


The requirement to prevent 


regulation. 




sists of creating new 




detailed baseline information 


irreparable harm would protect 






areas. Replacement 




for riparian-wetlands could 


wetland and riparian areas from 






areas would not restore 




help increase success rate of 


loss of productivity. 






lost function for many 




mitigation through improved 








years. Mitigation would 




design. 


Bonding would cover the cost 






also not address 






of actions taken to correct 






problems of temporal or 




The substantial irreparable 


degradation of riparian-wetland 






spacial loss of function. 




harm standard would protect 
significant wetland and 


areas from unplanned events. 










riparian areas. 







Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 








Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 






AQUATIC RESOURCES 






Habitat 


The removal of riparian 


Nature, duration, and extent 


The requirement to minimize 


Impacts would be similar to 


Aquatic resources would 


Protection and 


vegetation would result in 


of impacts to aquatic habitat 


disturbance to aquatic 


those under Alternative 3. 


receive similar protection 


Rehabilitation 


long-term loss of aquatic 


and communities would be 


resources would slightly 


Duration and extent of impacts 


as under Alternative 1 . 




habitat: 25 to 50+ years, 


similar to those under 


lessen habitat impacts. 


could be greatly reduced by the 






or until riparian-wetland 


Alternative 1 . States might 




required 10 year time frame for 


Requiring Notice-level 




areas reestablish to PFC. 


require that aquatic habitat 


Habitat disturbance would be 


habitat restoration. 


bonding would help 






be restored to premining 


similar to that under 




ensure rehabilitation but 




Aquatic communities 


condition. 


Alternatives 1 and 2. The 


Offsite riparian-wetland 


would not protect 




could be displaced by 




duration of disturbance might 


mitigation at a ratio of 1 .5 to 1 


resources from 




increased streamflow 


In some states (e.g. 


be slightly less because of 


would help offset the temporal 


unplanned events. 




during dewatering and 


California) suction dredging 


BLM's ability to set the time 


and spacial functional loss of 






deficient flows after 


impacts to aquatic habitat 


frame for riparian-wetland 


riparian-wetlands. Runoff, 






dewatering. 


and communities would be 


recovery. Impacts of suction 


seepage of contaminants 








reduced or avoided because 


dredging would be reduced. 


would not as greatly threaten 






Increased sedimentation 


of specific state permit 




aquatic life because BLM could 






and turbidity expected 


requirements. 


The ability to require detailed 


designate some acid-producing 






over the long term. 




baseline environmental 


deposits as unsuitable for 






Runoff and seepage of 




information should increase 


mining. 






contaminates during 




rehabilitation success. 








perpetual treatment could 






Bonding would cover actions 






threaten aquatic life. 






needed to mitigate impacts 
from unplanned events 






Suction dredging could 






providing a safeguard against 






degrade aquatic habitat 






long-term impacts. 






and cause increased 












J mortality of juvenile fish. 











Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 


Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 






Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 


AQUATIC RESOURCES (continued) 


Protecting 


Fish and invertebrates, 


Impacts to fish, including 


Protection of common and 


Protection similar or greater 


Protection of common 


Fish and 


including sensitive 


sensitive species, would be 


sensitive fish species would 


than under Alternative 3. 


and sensitive fish 


Invertebrate 


species, would continue 


similar to Alternative 1 . 


be increased compared to 




species would be similar 


Populations 


to be displaced, injured, 




Alternative 1 . BLM could 




to that under Alternative 




and killed. The level of 




prevent operations that would 




1. 




impact would vary by 




cause substantial harm to 








state and specific site. 




significant aquatic resources. 










WILDLIFE AND THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SP 


ECIES 




Protecting 


Wildlife protection would 


Overall, protection of wildlife 


Better protection of wildlife 


Offers most protection of 


Similar to Alternative 1 , 


Wildlife 


be similar to the levels 


would decrease slightly as a 


would contribute to the 


wildlife of all alternatives 


but wildlife habitat would 


Resources 


reported during the past 


result of differing state 


maintenance of wildlife 


because the reclamation stan- 


receive increased 




10 years, but new mining 


regulatory requirements and 


populations at present levels 


dards are the most stringent 


protection through the 




and reclamation technol- 


lack of BLM review. 


and maintenance or 


and specific time frames would 


Plans of Operations 




ogies and the strengthen- 




enhancement of habitat 


be set for reclamation. These 


required for all mining 




ing of related regulations 




through improved and careful 


provisions would promote the 


activity. 




and policies would better 




planning and more specific 


conserving or reestablishing of 






protect wildlife over time. 




reclamation standards. 


a viable, diverse habitat in a 
timely manner, thus reducing 
the time that habitat would be 
unsuitable for species. 








WILD HORSES AND BURROS 






Wild Horses 


Impacts would be similar under all alternatives and proportional to the amount of mineral activity. Herds could be displaced by noise, vehicle traffic, human 


and Burros 


presence, or loss of forage < 


Dr water sources. Water sources could be lost by restricted access or dewatering. Sensitivity would be most acute during 




spring foaling. 









Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 



Affected 
Resource or 
Activity 



Alternative 1 : 
Existing Regulations 
(No Action) 



Alternative 2: 
State Management 



Alternative 3: 
Proposed Regulations 
(Preferred Alternative) 



Alternative 4: 
Maximum Protection 



Alternative 5 

NRC 

Recommendations 



LIVESTOCK GRAZING 



Livestock 
Grazing 



Impacts would be small under all alternatives. Mining has affected an estimated 0.1% of animal unit months since 1981 . Mining displaces livestock 
grazing by disturbing forage, water sources, or other range developments. Impacts could be mitigated; otherwise, the level of grazing would have to be 
reduced on the grazing permit or lease. After reclamation some grazing might be reestablished. 



SPECIAL STATUS AREAS 



Types of 
Designated 
Special Status 
Areas in 3809 
Regulations 



Protection 
Level 



Lands in the California 
Desert Conservation Area 
(CDCA), National Wild 
and Scenic River System, 
areas of critical 
environmental concern 
(ACECs), designated 
wilderness, and areas 
closed to off-road vehicle 
(ORV) use. 



Plans and bond required 
for any activity. Activity 
within CDCA, Wild and 
Scenic River System, and 
wilderness areas would 
have to meet stated 
levels of resource 
protection or reclamation 
required by statutes. 



Would not provide special 
protection to special status 
areas. 



Mining within CDCA, Wild 
and Scenic River System 
and in wilderness areas 
would continue to have to 
meet the levels of resource 
protection or reclamation 
required by statutes 
establishing these areas. 
ACECs and areas closed to 
ORVs would be protected as 
provided for by state regula- 
tory programs. 



Requiring Plans for all mining 
and milling and expanding 
special status lands would 
improve protection of unique 
or valuable resources in 
national monuments, national 
conservation areas and critical 
habitat for threatened or 
endangered species. 



Same as Alternative 1 , except 
land use plans and the 
requirement to prevent 
substantial irreparable harm 
would protect special status 
areas that do not have stated 
levels of resource protection 
or reclamation required by 
statute. 



Since Alternative 4 requires 
Plans for all but negligible 
disturbance, it gives all lands 
special status area protection 
in this respect. 



Suitability requirements and the 
requirement to prevent 
irreparable harm would protect 
resources for which special 
status areas were designated. 

Requirement for American 
Indian concurrence for activity 
in areas designated as 
valuable for traditional cultural 
resources would protect those 
areas and resources. 



Same as Alternative 1 . 



Same as Alternative 1 . 

In addition, the 
requirement to file a 
Plan of Operations 
instead of a Notice for 
any mining would afford 
increased protection to 
resources in areas that 
were not added to the 
special status category. 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 








RECREATION 






Recreational 


No change from present. 


Similar to Alternative 1 . 


Slight decline in participation. 


Decline in participation. 


No change from present. 


Mining 












Other 


Mix of recreational 


Similar to Alternative 1 , but 


Similar to Alternative 1, but 


Similar to Alternative 1 , but 


Similar to Alternative 3. 


Recreation 


opportunities would 


proportionately greater 


proportionately smaller 


greater potential for preserving 




Users 


change. Primitive 


decrease in primitive 


decrease in primitive 


recreation opportunities at the 






recreation opportunities 


recreation opportunities and 


recreation opportunities and 


primitive end of the spectrum 






would continue to 


increase in developed 


increase in developed 


would result from potential 30% 






decrease, while 


recreation would result from 


recreation from 5% overall 


decrease in mining. Developed 






opportunities for more 


5% overall increase in 


decrease in mining. 


recreation opportunities 






developed recreation 


mining. 




created by mining and 






would increase. 






increased access would be 
forgone. 








VISUAL RESOURCES 






Visual Quality 


No change from current 


Effects to visual quality 


Effects to visual quality would 


Similar to Alternative 3 but less 


Similar to Alternative 1 . 




conditions. In some 


would be greater than under 


be much less severe than 


impact to visual resources due 






locations severe visual 


Alternative 1 because of less 


under No Action because of 


to pit backfilling requirement. 






effects would result. 


emphasis on scenic quality 
and small increase in activity. 


greater emphasis on visual 
resources and lower level of 












mineral activity. 






VRM 


Some projects would not 


VRM guidelines would not 


Projects would not be likely to 


Most projects would meet VRM 


Some projects would not 


Compliance 


meet VRM objectives. 


apply. 


meet VRM objectives. 


objectives. 


meet VRM objectives. 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



CO 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 








Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 


PALEONTOLOGICAL RESOURCES 


Paleontolog- 


Low impacts from Notice- 


Without BLM project review a 


Requirements for inventories 


Same as Alternative 3. 


Requiring Plans for all 


ical Sites 


level activity. Plan-level 


net loss of site information 


and mitigation development 


Eliminating Notices and 


activities except casual 




activity would benefit 


would result. 


before surface disturbance 


unrestricted data recovery time 


use and exploration 




paleontological sites due 




would reduce or possibly 


would virtually eliminate 


would reduce impacts of 




to discovery and inven- 




prevent most potential 


adverse impacts and might 


Notice-level activities. 




tory of previously 




impacts. Increased recovery 


benefit acquisition of 






unknown sites 




time would benefit paleonto- 
logical resources in cases of 
incidental discovery. 


paleontological data. 








CAVE RESOURCES 






Cave Sites 


Notices, Plans, and 


Loss of cave resources from 


Some reduction in impacts 


Greatest reduction in impacts 


Requiring Plans for all 




current mining would 


both Notice- and Plan-level 


because of reduced activity 


because of moderate reduction 


activities except casual 




have more indirect than 


activity. 


and added inventory and 


in mineral activity and 


use and exploration 




direct impacts to caves. 




mitigation requirements for 


requirement that all disturbance 


would reduce impacts of 








cave resources. 


above casual use undergo 
environmental review. 


Notice-level activities. 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recom m endati ons 


CULTURAL RESOURCES 


Historic 


3% of Notices would 


Increased impacts to cultural 


Increased time frame for site 


Eliminating Notices would 


Requiring Plans for all 


Properties 


affect historic properties 


resources without BLM 


recovery would reduce 


virtually eliminate impacts to 


activities except casual 


(Non- 


due to limited advance 


review, consultation, or 


impacts to incidental 


historic properties because of 


use and exploration 


Traditional 


review of Notice-level 


mitigation. 


discoveries. 


advance inventory, consul- 


would reduce impacts of 


Cultural 


activities. Plan-level 






tation, and mitigation, including 


Notice-level activities. 


Properties) 


operations would not 
affect historic properties 
due to advanced inven- 
tory, consultation, and 
mitigation. 






operations on split-estate 
lands. 




Traditional 


Impacts would continue 


With increases in mining, 


Impacts would decrease 


Decreased activity would 


Similar to Alternative 1 . 


Cultural 


from Plan- and Notice- 


impacts from Notice- and 


because of a slight decrease 


greatly reduce potential for 


Requiring Plans for all 


Properties 


level operations. Some 


Plan-level activity would 


in mineral activity and greater 


impacts. Eliminating Notices 


mining would reduce 


(TCPs) 


impacts would continue 


increase. Without BLM's 


proportion of Plans requiring 


would greatly reduce impacts 


impacts of Notice-level 




due to large size of most 


inventory, consultation, and 


inventory, consultation with 


by requiring advanced 


activities. 




traditional cultural 


mitigation, impacts would 


American Indians, and 


inventory, consultation, and 






properties, making 


increase. 


opportunity for mitigation. The 


mitigation. Some residual 






avoidance impractical as 




new definition of unnecessary 


impacts could still result 






mitigation. 




or undue degradation would 
also reduce impacts. 


because of the large size of 
some traditional cultural 
properties, making avoidance 
impractical as mitigation. 





Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



ro 
o 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 








Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 


AMERICAN INDIAN RESOURCE CONCERNS 


Trust 


Potential for impacts from 


Potential for impacts would 


Requiring Plans for all mining 


Reduction or elimination of 


Requiring Plans for all 


Resources 


Notice-level operations 


increase without BLM review 


would reduce impacts of 


impacts due to moderate 


mining would reduce 




would continue. 


of activity that might affect 


present Notice-level activities. 


decrease in activity and 


impacts of present 






trust resources. 


Probable reduction in impacts 
due to decrease in activity and 
increased proportion of mining 
activity requiring consultation. 


removal of Notice provision, 
therefore requiring consultation 
on all activity greater than 
casual use that might affect 
trust resources. 


Notice-level activities. 


Traditional 


Some residual impacts 


Increased impacts expected 


Requiring Plans for all mining 


Substantial decrease in 


Requiring Plans for all 


Cultural 


could not be mitigated 


from lack of mandated 


would reduce impacts of 


impacts due to moderate 


mining would reduce 


Practices and 


and would continue. 


consultation or mitigation 


present Notice-level activities. 


reduction in activity and 


impacts of present 


Resources 




development. 


Moderate decrease in impacts 
due to reduction in mineral 
activity, increased amount of 
consultation and mitigation, 
and requirement to prevent 
substantial irreparable harm to 


required concurrence by 
American Indians before 
allowing disturbance of lands 
with traditional cultural 
resources. 


Notice-level activities. 








significant cultural resources. 






Subsistence 


Potential for impacts from 


Increased potential for 


Requiring Plans for all mining 


Impacts from Notice-level 


Requiring Plans for all 


Resources 


Notice-level operations 


impacts from increased 


would reduce impacts of 


operations would be 


activities except casual 




would continue. ANILCA 


activity and lack of BLM 


present Notice-level activities. 


eliminated. ANILCA would 


use and exploration 




would prevent impacts 


reviews or approvals of 




prevent impacts from Plan-level 


would reduce impacts of 




from Plan-level activity. 


mineral activity. 




activity. 


Notice-level activities. 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



M 



Table 2-3. 3809 Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 


Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 




SOCIAL CONDITIONS 




Small Miners 


No effect. 


No effect. 


Potential for minor to major 


Potential for major effects. 


Potential for minor 








effects if alternative 


Plan requirements difficult for 


effects due to potential 








employment must be found 


most small operators. Major 


for a slight decline in 








due to greater restrictions on 


effect if alternative employment 


mineral activity. Major 








small operations. 


must be found. 


effects if alternative 
employment must be 
found due to greater 
restrictions on small 
operations. 


Communities 


No effect. 


Potential for minor benefits to 


Potential for minor to 


Potential for significant adverse 


Potential for minor 






mining-dependent 


significant adverse effect to 


effect to mining-dependent 


negative effects to 






communities due to slight 


mining-dependent 


communities, including 


mining-dependent 






increase in overall mining. 


communities including 


declines in social well-being 


communities due to 








declines in social well-being 


due to potential for up to 75% 


potential for a slight 








due to potential for up to a 


decrease in some types of 


decline in mineral 








30% decrease in some types 


mining. 


activity. 








of mining. 






Environmental 


Would not favor. Not 


Would oppose this 


Would favor this alternative. 


Would favor this alternative. 


Would not favor this 


Advocacy 


enough resource 


Alternative. 






alternative. 


Groups 


protection. 










General Public 


Inconsistent with attitudes 


Same as Alternative 1 . 


Consistent with attitudes of 


Consistent with attitudes that 


Consistent with attitudes 




of increasing numbers of 




increasing numbers of people 


resources should be better 


that resources should be 




people that resources 




that resources should be 


protected but some might feel it 


better protected, but 




should be better 




better protected. 


goes too far to protect 


some might feel it 




protected. 






resources over commodity use. 


doesn't go far enough to 
protect resources. 



Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Table 2-3. 3809 


Regulations Summary of Impacts by Alternative 








Affected 


Alternative 1 : 


Alternative 2: 


Alternative 3: 


Alternative 4: 


Alternative 5 


Resource or 


Existing Regulations 


State Management 


Proposed Regulations 


Maximum Protection 


NRC 


Activity 


(No Action) 




(Preferred Alternative) 




Recommendations 






ECONOMIC CONDITIONS 






Total Annual 


$1.7 billion 


$1.7 to $1.78 billion 


$1.21 to $1.53 billion 


$532 to $925 million 


$1.6 to $1.69 billion 


Mineral 




(up to +5% across study 


(-10% to -28% across study 


(-45% to -69% across study 


(-1% to -6% across 


Production 




area) 


area) 


area) 


study area) 


Value 












Total Annual 


21, 310 jobs 


21,310 to 22,380 jobs 


19,200 to 15,240 jobs 


6,670 to 11, 610 jobs 


20,050 to 21, 160 jobs 


Employment 












Total Annual 


$1.39 billion 


$1.39 to $1.46 billion 


$994 million to $1.25 billion 


$435 to $758 million 


$1.31 to $1.38 billion 


Personal 












Income 












Total Annual 


$3.08 billion 


$3.08 to $3.23 billion 


$2.20 to $2.77 billion 


$963 million to $1 .68 billion 


$2.99 to $3.06 billion 


Industry 












Output* 












Local 


No impact. 


Positive impacts mainly from 


Negative impacts mainly from 


Negative impacts similar to 


Negative impacts similar 


Economies 




increased level of local 


decreased level of local 


Alternative 3, but many more 


to Alternative 3 but not 






mining. Impact would 


mining. Impact would depend 


communities are likely to be 


as great. 






depend on a variety of 


on a variety of factors, 


affected. Degree of impact 








factors: level of activity now 


including the level of activity 


would depend on a variety of 








occurring, degree of 


now occurring, degree of 


factors: level of activity now 








community's specialization in 


community's specialization in 


occurring, degree of 








mining, and community size. 


mining, and community size. 


community's specialization in 
mining, and community size. 
Communities in Nevada would 
see greatest impact relative to 
other states. 




includes multipl 


ier effect of mining industry e 


<penditures. 









Table 2-3, Impact Summary Comparison 



Chapter 2 - Proposed Action and Alternatives 



Chapter 
Affected Environment and 
nvironmental Consequences 



Introduction 



Chapter 3 describes the physical, biological, 
social, and economic environment and the 
potential effects on the human environment of 
the Proposed Action and other alternatives 
described in Chapter 2. This format eliminates 
the redundancy created when the affected 
environment and the environmental 
consequences are discussed in separate 
chapters. Chapter 3 is organized by resource, 
allowing the reader to better review and 
understand the existing situation and the 
potential environment impacts of all the 
alternatives by resource. 

Except for BLM-administered lands that are 
under wilderness review, the proposed 
regulations apply to all operations authorized by 
the mining laws on public lands administered 
by BLM, including Stock Raising Homestead 
lands where the mineral interest is reserved to 
the United States. Mineral activity on BLM- 
administered lands under wilderness review are 
subject to the requirements at 43 CFR 3802. In 
addition, public lands open to mineral entry 
under the mining laws but not administered by 
BLM (national park, national forest, and 
national wildlife refuge lands) are not covered 
by the proposed regulations. Mineral 
disturbances on these lands are regulated by the 
relevant federal land managing agency, i.e. 



National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Most public lands open to activities under 
the mining laws are in the 1 1 contiguous 
western states, plus Alaska. (See Table 3-1.) 
Within the study area, BLM administers a 
surface and mineral estate of about 260 million 
acres. In addition to this surface/mineral estate, 
BLM also administers 300 million more acres 
of mineral estate underlying other lands. The 
surface of 70 million acres of these mineral 
estate lands were patented under the Stock 
Raising Homestead Act. By statute these 
patents had the mineral estate retained by the 
Federal Government and kept the lands open to 
mineral entry under the mining laws. 

The study area accounts for about half of 
the total acreage within the United States, but 
99% of all public lands administered by BLM 
are within the 12-state study area. BLM- 
administered public land acreage as a 
percentage of the total acreage within each state 
within the study area ranges from less than 1 % 
in Washington to more than 68% in Nevada. In 
addition, 95% of the lands patented under the 
Stock Raising Homestead Act, where the 
mineral estate was retained by the Federal 
Government, are also within the study area. 
Almost half of these split-estate lands are 
located in New Mexico and Wyoming. 



123 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-1. Distribution of BLM-Administered Public Land, Stock Raising Homestead Act Acreage, and 
Total State Acreage 


States 


Public Land 
Acreage 1 


SRHA 
Acreage 


Total State 
Acreage 


Western U.S.: 

Alaska 

Arizona 

California 

Colorado 

Idaho 

Montana 

Nevada 

New Mexico 

Oregon 

Utah 

Washington 

Wyoming 

Total Study Area 

Other States: 2 


86,526,170 
14,225,888 
14,565,597 

8,328,739 
11,789,324 

6,225,205 
47,883,408 
13,149,476 
16,143,043 
22,769,356 
386,334 
18,356,977 
260,349,517 

1,531,061 




2,985,746 

3,423,222 

8,405,015 

3,563,294 

7,720,173 

494,637 

15,621,192 

3,375,688 

2,800,709 

513,746 

18,172,713 

67,076,135 

3,286,790 


365,481,600 
72,699,000 

100,206,720 
66,485,760 
52,933,120 
93,271,040 
70,264,320 
77,766,400 
61,598,720 
52,696,960 
42,693,760 
62,343,040 
1,118,440,440 

1,152,902,920 


U.S. Total 


261,880,578 


70,362,925 


2,271,343,360 


Study Area as Percent of U.S. 


99% 


95% 


49% 


'Includes all public lands administered by BLM except for Land Utilization Project lands, to which the 3809 regula- 
tions do not apply. Also includes lands that are withdrawn from mineral entry. 

includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, 
Nebraska, N. Dakota, Oklahoma, S. Dakota, and Wisconsin. 
Source: BLM 2000a, 1979. 



Public lands in the 12-state study area have 
a wide range of climates, landforms, vegetation 
types, and social and economic settings. 
Physical characteristics such as climate and soil 
types and biological parameters such as 
vegetation productivity and the presence of 
special status species differ markedly. The 
physical and biological attributes described in 
this chapter highlight these differences only 
where needed to describe the affected 
environment in relation to the regulatory 
alternatives. 

The Proposed Action and alternatives 
analyzed in this chapter consist of potential 
changes in the regulations that are set forth to 
prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of 
public lands by operations authorized under the 
mining laws. Environmental consequences that 
would result from these potential regulatory 
changes can be categorized and presented in 
many ways. Some impacts are the direct effect 



of implementing the action, whereas others are 
more indirect, occurring later or further away. 
The impacts may last for only a short time or 
may affect the environment for a long period. 
The environmental consequences may be 
adverse, beneficial, or both. Many of the 
potential regulatory changes would be largely 
administrative and would have little direct 
effect on the environment. These administrative 
changes are aimed at improving agency 
efficiency and effectiveness, increasing 
consistency, or meeting other nonenvironmental 
objectives or public policies. 

The administrative changes would, 
however, result in indirect or secondary effects 
on physical, biological, social, or economic 
aspects of the environment. Chapter 3 discusses 
all aspects of the environmental consequences 
of the Proposed Action and other alternatives. 
But the environmental impacts of future on-the- 
ground disturbances, requiring National 



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Environmental Policy Act compliance, will be 
analyzed on a case-by-case basis. 

As this EIS was prepared to evaluate the 
environmental consequences of regulation 
alternatives, it was not practical to document 
the affected environment or environmental 
consequences at the level of detail generally 
found in site-specific EISs. The regulatory 
alternatives will affect the nature, extent, and 
environmental consequences of future mineral 
activity on public lands administered by BLM. 
The uncertainties of where, when, and how this 
future mining will occur make accurate long- 
term forecasts impossible and even short-term 
projections tenuous. But to aid in the analysis, 
reasonably foreseeable assumptions on future 
activity were prepared (Appendix E). These 
assumptions became the basis for much of the 
environmental consequences discussed in this 
chapter. The approach used to document the 
reasonably foreseeable significant effects 
conforms to the requirements at 40 CFR 
1502.22 when dealing with situations where 
information is incomplete or unavailable. 
Approval of future mineral activity, subject to 
National Environmental Policy Act, will be 
documented and analyzed at a level of detail 
commensurate with the proposed on-the-ground 
disturbance. 

Assumptions for 
Analysis 

The analysis of the environmental effects of 
the Proposed Action and alternatives is based 
on the following assumptions. 

Full Implementation. To clearly give a 
scientific and analytic basis for comparing the 
regulatory alternatives, we assume full 
implementation of each regulatory alternative. 
This assumption allows us to more sharply 
define the environmental consequences of the 
regulatory options to aid in decision making. 
Full implementation requires adequate agency 
funding and staffing to ensure that all the 
provisions of the proposed regulations and 
alternatives are fully implemented. 



No Action Alternative. The No Action 
Alternative (Alternative 1) assumes that the 
existing regulations continue unchanged. 
Although it assumes no change in the existing 
regulations, this alternative still may have 
environmental consequences. Future mineral 
activity under the No Action Alternative is 
presented as a set of assumptions. These 
assumptions are fairly general, given the 
diversity of mining on public lands, variety of 
mining and exploration methods, commodities 
extracted, geographic scope, and inherent 
uncertainty of the commodities markets. These 
assumptions concerning the future under the No 
Action Alternative are discussed in Appendix E. 

Changes in Mineral Activity. Estimates of 
mineral activity for Alternatives 2, 3, 4, and 5 
are presented as changes from the baseline (No 
Action Alternative). As with the assumptions 
for future mineral activity, it is neither practical 
nor even possible to develop complete 
information on future changes in mineral 
activity resulting from the implementing of 
regulatory alternatives. Appendix E discusses 
the approach used to document the reasonably 
foreseeable significant effects. This approach 
conforms to the requirements at 40 CFR Part 
1502.22 for situations where information is 
incomplete or unavailable. The changes in 
mineral activity estimates are intended to help 
evaluate the environmental consequences of the 
proposed regulations and alternatives, 
specifically to give the public and decision 
makers information on the potential direction 
and magnitude of change. These estimates of 
the expected changes in mineral activity should 
not be considered factual data or accurate or 
precise estimates of change. Because of the 
uncertainties in forecasting and the many 
comments received on the estimates presented 
in the draft EIS, the team opted to present the 
estimates of changes in mineral activity as 
ranges. 

Past, Present, and Future Actions and 
Events. The cumulative effects of past actions 
and events are reflected in the Affected 
Environment. These past actions and events 
include existing legal requirements and past and 
present public land uses and land use decisions. 



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The existing legal federal requirements that are 
relevant to mineral exploration and mining are 
discussed in Appendix C. Appendix D presents 
a summary of the key state mining regulations. 
Where recent actions and events have taken 
place, we discuss the potential consequences to 
the affected environment. We note pending or 
future actions and events but do not attempt to 
speculate on the potential effects of these 
actions. 

Discretionary Regulatory Provisions. 
Many of the provisions in the proposed 
regulations give BLM discretion on how, when, 
and where to implement the provision. Two 
provisions in the proposed regulations are of 
particular importance because of the potential 
magnitude of the impact on the industry and the 
environment. The backfilling requirement in the 
proposed regulations provides that BLM will 
determine the amount of pit backfilling 
required, if any, taking into consideration 
economic, environmental, and safety factors. In 
addition, the proposed definition of unnecessary 
or undue degradation has been expanded to 
include preventing ...conditions, activities, or 
practices that... result in substantial irreparable 
harm to significant scientific, cultural, or 
environmental resource values of the public 
lands that cannot be effectively mitigated. 

The proposed backfilling provision is 
similar to the existing State of Nevada 
requirements. A recent BLM study of the pit 
backfilling in Nevada reported that no major 
mine pits have been completely backfilled 
(BLM 1998d). About 25% of recently approved 
Plan-level operations with pits have been or are 
proposed to be partially backfilled. As such, for 
our analysis we assume that pit backfilling will 
generally be limited to situations that allow for 
concurrent pit reclamation, such as operations 
with multiple pits. 

The proposed addition of the substantial 
irreparable harm to the unnecessary or undue 
degradation definition would apply to all 
operations under the proposed regulations, 
including casual use and Notice- and Plans- 
level operations. BLM will need to consider 
this provision when it approves or reviews a 



proposed action. The Preamble for the proposed 
regulations states that the intent is for this 
provision to be used to deny a Plan of 
Operations or reject a Notice only in 
exceptional circumstances. In addition, Section 
3809.41 l(d)(3)(iii) provides that if BLM 
disapproves a Plan of Operations on the basis of 
this provision, it must include written findings 
supported by a record that clearly shows each 
element of the provision. The proposed 
regulations require that any decision to deny a 
Plan of Operations be based on this provision. 
Any decision to deny a Plan of Operations must 
be supported by documentation showing how 
the following four criteria have been met. 

• Approval of the Plan of Operations would 
create irreparable harm. 

• The irreparable harm is substantial in extent, 
duration, or magnitude. 

• The resources undergoing substantial 
irreparable harm constitute significant 
scientific, cultural, or environmental 
resources. 

• Mitigation would not be effective in reducing 
the level of harm below the substantial or 
irreparable threshold. 

Consistent with this intent, we assume that 
BLM would rarely deny a Plan of Operations or 
reject a Notice on the basis of this substantial 
irreparable harm provision for most resources. 
But we also recognize that the determination of 
what constitutes substantial irreparable harm, 
significant resources, and effective mitigation is 
not always straightforward to BLM or the 
public. Of specific concern are activities that 
will potentially affect Native American sacred 
or religious values. One can argue that religious 
significance, substantial irreparable harm, and 
effective mitigation are determined by those 
that hold those beliefs, not by BLM. Analyzing 
the implementing and impact of this provision 
as it applies to sacred and religious values is 
further complicated by the fact that most the 
Native American religions are based on or 
incorporate the concept that each individual 
determines what is significant for 



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herself/himself. Because of these concerns, we 
assume that this provision as it relates to sacred 
and religious values will be extensively applied. 

Cumulative Effects 

The regulations for implementing the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
require federal agencies to analyze and disclose 
cumulative effects — effects that result from the 
incremental impact of an action "when added to 
other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable 
future actions regardless of what agency 
(federal or nonfederal) or person undertakes 
such other actions. Cumulative impacts can 
result from individually minor but collectively 
significant actions taking place over a period of 
time." (40 CFR 1508.7) 

The Proposed Action and alternatives 
involve changes in the regulations and as such 
are broad in scope. As a result, this E1S is 
programmatic, addressing environmental 
consequences that are correspondingly broad in 
scope. Furthermore, neither the Proposed Action 
nor the alternatives would be implemented in a 
vacuum. Implementation would be interwoven 
with many other actions, events, and trends 
taking place at local, regional, national, and 
international levels. For example, actions on 
federally administered lands may have 
beneficial or harmful impacts to systems on 
private lands. The analysis in this chapter 
strives to consider these changes. 

For example, mineral activity is not the only 
factor that affects the public lands. Climate, 
recreation, livestock grazing and wildlife use, 
management practices on adjoining lands, and 
the introduction and spread of alien weeds are 
also key considerations. The future of the public 
lands cannot be predicted by considering 
changes in mineral activity and the 3809 
regulations alone. Similarly, BLM regulations, 
management practices, and policies are not the 
only factors that affect the mining industry and 
western rural communities. Of major 



importance are currently undiscovered mineral 
deposits; local, national, and international 
supply and demand for mineral commodities; 
regional population growth; changing 
demographics, lifestyles, and values; economic 
competition and restructuring; and changing 
laws, policies, and practices being implemented 
by other federal and state agencies. 

Population growth and demographic 
changes in the West and in many western rural 
communities will continue to transform rural 
economies. Population growth in many rural 
communities, while contributing to economic 
growth and diversification, will continue to 
diminish the relative importance of mining in 
those communities. Communities that continue 
to lose population and whose economies are in 
decline may be further strained by any decrease 
in mineral activity. Demographic and land use 
changes might increase or decrease a 
community's tax base. Where economies are 
stable or growing, the tax base would likely be 
stable. Where populations continue to decline or 
mineral production significantly declines, the 
state and local tax revenues might decline. 

The protection and recovery of federally 
listed species and their habitats — for example, 
desert tortoises in the desert Southwest — are 
also likely to change the way mining activity is 
conducted on federal lands. Future activities 
designed to avert habitat loss and endangered 
species listings will be implemented under any 
of the regulatory alternatives considered in this 
EIS. 

A fundamental assumption of this analysis 
is that, with or without changes to the 3809 
regulations, the human environment within the 
study area will continue to change. The 3809 
regulations are but one small factor in defining 
the future conditions of the human environment. 
The potential environmental consequences of 
the proposed action and alternatives, including 
the cumulative effects, are documented by 
resource in this chapter. 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Irreversible and 
Irretrievable 
Commitment of 
Resources 

A resource is irreversibly committed when 
an action alters the resource so that it cannot be 
restored or returned to its original or 
predisturbance condition. A resource is 
irretrievably committed when a resource is 
removed or consumed. 

For example, in the extraction of gold, the 
mining of waste rock and ore would be an 
irreversible commitment of resources. Although 
the gold in ore would be irreversibly committed 
from geologic formations, the precious metal 
would be retrieved and placed in long- term 
economic circulation. 

Another example of irreversible losses 
involves soil erosion. Soil losses from handling, 
erosion losses from topsoil stockpiles, and other 
unavoidable erosion losses would be 
irreversible. The net evaporative losses of water 
from a pit lake would be an example of a long- 
term irretrievable commitment of resources. 
Consumptive use of process water would be an 
example of a temporary irretrievable 
commitment of resources, occurring only 
during mining. 

The level of future mineral activity under 
the Proposed Action or alternatives would 
directly affect the magnitude of the irreversible 
and irretrievable commitment of resources. But 
provisions of the alternatives would also define 
the nature and extent of these commitments. 
These types of irreversible and irretrievable 
effects are discussed as part of the 
environmental consequences of the alternatives 
for each resource in this chapter. 

Environmental Justice 

Federal agencies are required to address 
"disproportionately high and adverse human 
health or environmental effects of its programs, 
policies and activities on minority populations 



and low- income populations" (Executive Order 
12898). During this analysis BLM considered 
all public input from persons or groups, 
regardless of age, race, income status, or other 
social and economic characteristics. 

This document is a broad assessment of 
proposed regulations. Environmental Justice 
issues are meant to be addressed at the local 
level. As CEQ's Environmental Justice 
Guidance under the National Environmental 
Policy Act states, "Agencies should recognize 
that the question of whether agency action 
raises environmental justice issues is highly 
sensitive to the history or circumstances of a 
particular community or population, the 
particular type of environmental or human 
health impact, and the nature of the proposed 
action itself." 

Mineral Resource 
Development 

Affected Environment 

Geology 

The public lands have a rich geologic 
history and an abundance of mineral resources. 
The geology on public lands is highly complex 
and difficult to summarize. The regions have 
been subdivided into geologic physiographic 
provinces such as the Basin and Range, 
Colorado Plateau, Snake River Plain, Rocky 
Mountain, and the Columbia Plateau, to name a 
few. The public lands includes geologic 
formations dating from the Archean (early part 
of Precambrian era) to the Quaternary period. 

Gold is extensively produced in Nevada, 
copper in Arizona, placer gold in Alaska, and 
gypsum in California. Minerals extracted from 
the public land include copper, gold, silver, 
lead, mercury, uranium, perlite, bentonite, and 
limestone. The potential for continued mineral 
production on public lands is high, and the 
mineral industry continues to develop these 
lands for a variety of mineral products. 

Understanding ore deposits is a complex 
and difficult task. But basic understanding of 
ore deposits is needed to understand the 



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Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



complex nature of the mining types and their 
impacts . The following passage is reprinted 
with permission from Appendix A of the 
National Research Council (NRC) study 
Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands (NRC 
1999). 

Ore deposits form as variants of such 
geologic processes as volcanism, 
weathering, and sedimentation operating 
with an extraordinary intensity. Ore 
deposits typically are parts of large-scale 
(several miles across and perhaps just as 
deep) ore-forming systems in which many 
elements, not just those of economic 
interest, have been enriched. For example, 
arsenic, antimony, thallium, and mercury 
are commonly enriched in or near Carlin- 
type gold deposits. Explorationists 
continually seek to discern trace chemical 
haloes or geophysical patterns to combine 
with geological observations and concepts 
to recognize faint clues to the location of 
the ore deposit. Known ores constitute less 
than one part in 10,000 of the metal 
endowment of the upper 1 km of 
continental crust; thus, by far the largest 
portion of metals resides in ordinary rocks 
as a low-level background geochemical 
signature in amounts to meager for 
economic mining. 

Many hardrock commodities are associated 
with magmatic and hydrothermal processes 
(Guilbert and Park, 1986). These 
processes, in turn, are associated with 
modem or ancient mountain belts. 
Mountainous or sparsely vegetated 
terrains, such as those in the western states, 
expose possibly productive rocks much 
more fully than do, for example, mid- 
continent prairies. In addition, the West is 
blessed with geologic conditions, including 
abundant igneous rocks and associated 
hydrothermal systems, that have led to the 
formation of ore deposits. Thus, the prime 
prospecting ground is in land that many 
people regard as valuable for aesthetic 



reasons, which creates potential for 
conflict among uses of the land. 

Development of Mineral Properties 

To understand how the 3809 regulations 
apply to mineral activities on public lands, one 
should review the steps or phases used to locate 
and develop mineral properties. The following 
is a description of the process the mining 
industry uses to develop mineral properties and 
the types of mining methods used to extract 
minerals. 

All mining operations begin with 
exploration activities that require large dollar 
investments coupled with a high risk of failure. 
Success of mining depends on the success of 
exploration. Exploration may discover a 
mineral occurrence and may even outline its 
size and mineral character. The ore deposit is 
"found" or "developed" only through the 
combined efforts of the many geologists, 
geophysicists, geochemists, metallurgists, 
mining engineers, lawyers, and managers who 
believe that a mine can be profitably developed. 
Deposits go through many cycles of evaluation 
and rejection. Before they are brought into 
production, geologic understanding improves, 
and worldwide economic and political 
conditions change. The location of a mining 
claim or group of claims follows the 
prospecting or exploration program and is 
essential to the next phase of developing a 
mineral deposit into a mine. 

The development of a mine from grassroots 
exploration to production can be roughly 
divided into three stages. Each stage requires 
applying more discriminating (and expensive) 
techniques over successively smaller areas to 
find, develop, and produce economic mineral 
deposits. These stages can be grouped into the 
following activity categories: reconnaissance, 
exploration/prospecting, and mine development. 

The lag time between the first discovery of 
a mineral occurrence and the opening of a mine 
may be 10 years or more. Some gold properties 
are opened within 3 years, whereas copper 
deposits may require more than 10 years. 
During this time operators do the following: 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Analyze all available and reasonable geologic 
information. 

• Make engineering decisions for the design of 
the mine. 

• Acquire equipment and workers. 

• Prepare mine closure and reclamation plans. 

• Obtain financial capital. 

Reconnaissance. The first phase of 
exploration involves researching the geologic 
literature; reviewing the geologic models for the 
minerals of interest; and interviewing local, 
knowledgeable, experienced people and 
companies working in the area of interest. Once 
reconnaissance has found a favorable area, 
usually occupying tens of square miles, it may 
use airborne and satellite remote sensing 
surveys and limited ground surveys to examine 
the general characteristics of the area's geology 
and mineralization and then select smaller 
targets of interest for more detailed study. Such 
study may involve detailed surface geologic 
mapping, geophysical surveying, and 
geochemical sampling programs, none of which 
disturb the land's surface. Academic and 
government entities or major corporations 
usually carry out these studies. 

Reconnaissance-level mineral inventories 
normally cause no more surface disturbance 
than an occasional sampling of soil, rocks, or 
stream sediment. These inventories may require 
minor off-road vehicle use. To protect its 
interests, the company will begin staking and 
recording mining claims. These actions do not 
disturb the surface or require surface 
reclamation and would be considered casual 
use. 

Prospecting and Exploration. Americans 
generally use the terms prospecting and 
exploration interchangeably. Prospecting 
normally denotes activities of a single person, 
whereas a company engages in exploration 
using a variety of techniques to evaluate both 
the surface and subsurface geologic 
characteristics of a mineral occurrence 
(Hartman 1992). 

When a sufficiently anomalous mineral 
occurrence or favorable occurrence indicator is 
found, a mineral prospect is established and is 



subjected to more intense evaluation through 
exploration. This area may range from a single 
square mile to an entire mountain range of 
several hundred square miles. 

Mineral exploration has had many cyclic 
developments in the last half century. Early 
efforts concentrated on comparing new areas 
with existing mines and mineralization. The 
introduction of airborne and satellite remote 
sensing, computer models, and a better 
understanding of geologic processes led to the 
discovery of porphyry copper deposits, 
Mississippi Valley lead- zinc deposits, and 
volcano genie massive sulfide deposits. In the 
past 15 years exploration has mainly targeted 
disseminated gold and stratiform precious metal 
deposits. In the future major exploration targets 
will focus on the following: 

• World-class deposits of all kinds of minerals. 

• Small high-grade deposits with low capital 
costs that will be profitable under any market 
condition. 

• Polymetallic deposits that can be mined by 
surface methods (Hartman 1992). 

Efforts to locate a mineral prospect include 
detailed mapping, sampling, and geochemical 
and geophysical study programs. At this time 
the mining company usually begins to acquire 
property, and most mining claims are located to 
secure ground while trying to make a mineral 
discovery. Surface-disturbing activities in 
prospecting involve more intense soil and rock 
chip sampling using mostly hand tools, frequent 
off-road vehicle use, and the placing and 
maintaining mining claim monuments. This 
activity is normally considered "casual use" (43 
CFR 3809.1-2) and does not require BLM 
notification or approval. Operations under 
casual use require no mechanized equipment or 
explosives but must reclaim disturbed areas. 

Exploration involves prospecting at a more 
intense level and in a smaller area. In addition, 
roads are built, trenches dug, and exploration 
holes drilled. In later stages of exploration an 
exploratory adit or shaft may be driven. If the 
prospect already has underground workings, 
these may be sampled, drilled, or extended. 



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Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Subsurface exploration by shafts and large- 
diameter (more than 1 8 inches) drill holes are 
normally used for finding mineral targets or the 
development phase of mining and not initial 
exploration. 

Exploration may involve mechanized earth 
moving equipment and drill rigs and explosives. 
A typical exploration project requires building 
about 5,000 feet of access road, setting up a 
dozen drill sites with each site having several 
holes drilled to less than 500 feet, and possibly 
digging several trenches 200 feet long by 8 feet 
wide by 6 to 8 feet deep. The number of pits 
and trenches depends on the expected size of 
the mineralized area as determined by surface 
mapping and sampling. Test pits are usually less 
than 20 feet deep and 10 feet in diameter. 
Trenches are normally less than 10 feet wide, 20 
feet deep, and 100 feet long. The area for a drill 
rig is about 50 feet square. Most surface 
disturbed for exploration amounts to less than 5 
acres. Exploration is normally conducted under 
a Notice in the existing 3809 regulations, which 
require the operator to notify BLM 15 days 
before beginning activity. If exploration is 
conducted in sensitive areas or exceeds the 5- 
acre threshold, an approved Plan of Operations 
is required. 

Mine Development. If exploration results 
show that an economically viable mineral 
deposit is present, on-the-ground activity will 
intensify to obtain detailed knowledge on 
reserves, possible mining methods, and mineral 
processing requirements. This effort will 
involve more intensely applying all the 
previously used exploration tools. After 
acquiring enough information, the operator will 
conduct a feasibility study to decide whether to 
proceed with mine development and what 
mining and ore processing methods to use. 

When an operator decides to develop a 
property, the mine permitting process begins. 
Once BLM approves the Plan of Operations, 
work begins on developing the mine 
infrastructure: 



• Building the mill, offices, and laboratory. 

• Driving development workings for an 
underground mine or prestripping for an open 
pit mine. 

• Building access roads or haulage routes. 

• Placing utility services. 

During this development, exploration 
continues in order to define other areas to be 
mined. 

Mine development involves the following 
activities: mining, ore processing, tailings 
disposal, waste rock placement, solution 
processing, and metal refining. Such activities 
require the use of 

• Heavy earth moving equipment. 

• Explosives for mining. 

• Materials handling. 

• Exploration equipment for refining the ore 
reserve base. 

• Hazardous or dangerous reagents for 
processing requirements. 

• General construction. 

Once enough facilities are in place, mine 
production begins. Often concurrent with 
production are "satellite" exploration efforts to 
expand the mine's reserve base and extend the 
project life. Upon completion of or concurrent 
with mining the property is reclaimed. 

The sizes of mines vary greatly. Not all 
mines require all the previously mentioned 
facilities and equipment. Acreages involved can 
range from several single acres to several 
hundred acres. Most projects disturb more than 
5 acres and require an approved Plan of 
Operations. 

Mining Methods 

The impact of mining and the effects of 
regulations on the mining industry depend on 
the mining methods used and the mineral 
deposits mined. Mining methods have been 
classified to help select extraction methods for 
deposit types and for other factors. In addition, 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



this classification helps evaluate the impacts of 
the chosen method. Mineral deposits have been 
geometrically described by an idealized shape, 
inclination, size, and depth. Complex or 
composite bodies consist of more than a single 
deposit type (Hartman 1992). 

The ideal shapes are either tabular or 
massive with narrow bodies or pipes being 
subordinate. Tabular bodies of minerals usually 
extend hundreds of feet horizontally and only a 
few tens of feet vertically. Ore from tabular 
bodies is generally extracted by strip mining, of 
which placer mining is a subcategory. Massive 
ore bodies are approximately equip-dimensional 
(laid out for easy equipment use) and are 
usually a few hundred feet in each dimension. 
Ore from massive bodies is generally extracted 
by open pit mining (Hartman 1992). 

In surface mining the horizontal angle of 
the deposit (usually a bedded deposit with 
overburden less than 100 feet thick) and the 
deposit's relative width determine whether the 
minerals are mined by strip or pit methods. For 
example, flat-lying deposits are opened up by 
making narrow mining cuts into the deposit and 
then casting or hauling the next cut's waste into 
the previously mined area. Placer mining 
methods are used for deposits that are under 
water or have a large amount of ground water 
because of the need to handle large amounts of 
water. For deposits lying at a steeper angle or 
with thick overburden, open pit methods are 
used. The stability of the unmined rock 
determines the pit's depth. 

Strip Mining. Strip mines have the 
following characteristics: 

• Usually designed for rectangular tabular 
deposits that are longer than they are wide. 

• Found in areas of rugged topography where 
the deposit may be bisected by narrow 
gullies. 

• Located where the overburden is relatively 
shallow (low stripping ratios) and the deposit 
itself is not at a great depth below the land 
surface. 

• Used where the deposit is interbedded 
between uneconomic rock units or located in 
topographic low areas (valleys). 



In strip mining the topsoil and overburden 
are removed from the ore deposit and 
stockpiled separately, usually a short distance 
from the initial mine cut. The deposit is mined 
in a linear fashion until the end of the ore 
deposit or the property limits are reached. A 
second identical pass is then made next to the 
first except that the overburden is placed into 
the previous mined out area. After the third cut 
is made, the original stockpiled overburden is 
graded into and over the first two cuts. Topsoil 
is then respread over the site, and vegetation is 
reestablished. The remaining deposit is mined 
in a similar fashion until the deposit is 
exhausted. The strip mine is reclaimed at the 
same time that ore is mined, except for the last 
one or two mine cuts, which are reclaimed after 
the mine is closed. 

In strip mining little more area is disturbed 
for waste rock or tailings dumps because these 
materials are returned to the mined area as soon 
as there is space. Access roads, mill and office 
buildings, and water treatment facilities usually 
occupy the only other areas needed for this type 
of mining. 

Placer Mining. Suction or mechanical 
dredge mining techniques are commonly 
employed to extract minerals lying in loosely 
consolidated deposits with large amounts of 
ground water or in rivers or lakes. Intake 
nozzles for suction dredges vary from 2 to 10 
inches in diameter. The most common sizes 
range from 4 to 6 inches. Generally the 
processing system is relatively simple with a 
grizzly (screen) separating off the oversized 
rocks. Screens classify the smaller material and 
a sluice box, with regular or modified iron 
angle-iron riffles, concentrates the valuable 
minerals. The recovery system is usually 
supported on floats above the intake nozzle in 
the pond that is created when excavating the 
overburden. A gasoline-powered high-pressure 
water pump supplies water to the intake for 
suction to extract the mineral-bearing material 
from the pay streaks or bedrock areas. 

In the past, mechanical bucket-line dredges 
were used to mine deeply buried placer 
minerals. These dredges moved great amounts 
of material while floating in a pond created by 



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Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



the excavation of the barren gravels. Material 
was excavated and processed on and tailings 
were disposed from the floating platform. The 
moving chain of buckets excavated the gravel. 
Gravels were emptied into revolving screen 
classifiers, which separated the undersized 
material from the oversized. The oversized 
material was transported by conveyors behind 
and away from the dredge. 

The processing plant for the recovery of the 
gold consisted of either jigs or sluice boxes 
onboard the dredge. Most of these dredges are 
no longer operating on public lands. Smaller 
cutter-head dredges can be used. But because of 
high mechanical wear and many breakdowns, 
other mining methods are more commonly used 
to mine alluvial deposits. 

Placer deposits are mined either by strip or 
pit methods with the addition of water control 
structures such as bypasses or drains to dewater 
the gravel deposits. Once the water has either 
been removed or reduced to an amount 
manageable through the use of pumps, the 
topsoil is removed and saved for future 
respreading over the mined areas. The 
overburden is removed and stockpiled or placed 
in previously excavated areas as part of the 
reclamation sequence of the mine. The mineral- 
bearing gravels are hauled to the processing or 
washplant, where gravity separation methods 
are used to recover valuable minerals in the 
sluice box or jig unit. The washed gravels are 
placed in the previously mined areas, usually on 
top or intermixed with the overburden. The 
tailings are then reshaped, covered with the 
original topsoil, and reseeded to prevent erosion 
and finish the reclamation of the mined site. 

Open Pit Mining. Open pit mines have the 
following characteristics: 

• Usually designed for massive or steeply 
inclined (dipping) deposits. 

• Dimensional or narrow in extent and size. 

• Found in areas of rugged topography. 

• Located where the overburden is relatively 
thick (high stripping ratios). 

• Located where the deposit is relatively deep 
below the land surface. 



Used where the deposit is interbedded 
between uneconomic rock units or where the 
rock strength is weak and not suitable for 



underground methods. 



The topsoil and overburden are removed 
from the ore deposit, and the deposit is mined 
in a downward fashion until the limits of the 
deposit are reached. The limits of the mine pit 
are not solely related to the grade of the ore but 
also to the engineering of the pit slopes and the 
economics of removing overburden and ore 
from the pit. 

The stockpiled overburden is placed in 
valleys near the mine site or on the surface of 
adjacent land and then graded into a stable 
shape. The waste rock from the mill is 
deposited in large settling ponds or may be 
placed on the surface of the land and reshaped. 
Ponds are located where they are most cost 
effective and the topography is most stable. The 
land beneath the ponds and waste piles is 
permanently lost to any other uses. Topsoil is 
placed over the overburden or waste piles and 
the pond areas when they are reclaimed, and 
vegetation is established at the sites. 

Reclamation is generally not concurrent 
with mining and is not usually begun until the 
mine is closed. If the mine is deep, the cut is 
generally not filled. In open pit mining other 
areas are disturbed for waste rock and tailings 
dumps, access roads, mill and office buildings, 
and water treatment facilities. 

Underground Mining. Underground 
mining generally involves the removal of the 
mineralized vein or lode from the surrounding 
country rock. Minable widths vary from less 
than 4 feet to more than 20 feet. Ore is usually 
extracted from highly competent rock or rock 
that is reinforced with bolts or anchors so that 
surface subsidence is negligible. Massive block 
caving techniques may create localized 
subsidence of the surface. The mined-out 
underground workings are usually backfilled 
with the waste rock from mining or the mill 
tailings. Backfilling maintains the competency 
of the surrounding rock and prevents 
subsidence. 



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Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



In all underground mining some of the 
waste must be placed on the surface temporarily 
or until there are enough underground openings 
to hold the replaced waste rock. Some waste 
rock may be placed on the surface permanently 
because there is not enough room to replace the 
waste or the mining method is not amenable to 
replacing the waste. 

Most surface impacts from underground 
mining involve mining-related surface uses 
such as milling, office functions, storage, waste 
and tailings disposal, and water treatment. All 
of these activities are similar if not the same as 
the surface-disturbing activities of surface 
mines and mill sites. 

In Situ Mining. A mining method that is 
considered neither surface nor underground is 
"in situ" extraction of valuable minerals by 
remobilizing or leaching minerals where they 
occur. This method drills holes on a grid pattern 
into the ore deposit. A dissolving or leaching 
solution is then injected through these holes 
into the ore deposit, where the chemicals 
extract the desired minerals. The pregnant 
liquid is then removed from a different well or 
series of wells and piped to a recovery plant or 
mill. There the minerals are recovered and the 
barren solution returned to the injection wells 
and the cycle begins again. In situ mining 
appears to be more like a milling operation and 
less like most extraction methods. Except for 
the access roads and pipelines leading to the 
recovery facility, the surface is only slightly 
disturbed. 

Mill Sites and Tailings Sites. Mill and 
tailings sites are usually found with one of the 
other types of mining methods, depending on 
the characteristics of the ore. At mills, minerals 
can be extracted either by chemical or physical 
methods. Mill sites can also be established apart 
from any specific mine and operate as a small 
custom mill for small operators. 

Storage facilities and mills for processing 
mined rock and treating tailings have 
traditionally been placed on areas that have no 
mineral value. These sites may be next to the 
mine or removed some distance from the mine 
site. 



Mill sites are used for locating offices, 
warehouses, repair shops, crushing and grinding 
systems, chemical and physical separation and 
concentration systems, leach pads, and other 
facilities that support the mine. Mill processing 
plants may be as simple as a sluice box next to 
a water source and the alluvial material trucked 
to the site. Or they may consist of a group of 
structures, each housing a part of the processing 
machinery that recovers the commodities in a 
series of steps. Milling of certain ores ranges 
from simple gravity and water washing systems 
to chemical and flotation treatments to 
mechanical crushing and sorting processes that 
form the finished product. Mill facilities may 
cover an area from less than 1 acre to 10 or 
more acres. 

Since the 1980s tailings impoundments 
have become a small part of the mill site 
operations, as more mines used cyanide heap 
leaching techniques to recover the minerals and 
only small treatment and concentration 
buildings are needed for mills. Some heap leach 
pads are massive-2,000 feet wide by 2 miles 
long-and are in continuous use for up to 5 
years. 

Tailings disposal is a major if not sole 
purpose of some mill site claims. Tailings is the 
general term for all waste rock and processed 
rock that remains on the surface after the 
valuable minerals have been extracted. Some 
waste rock is barren of mineralization and may 
cause no problems being left on the surface 
after reshaping and the establishing of 
vegetation cover. But other waste rock has 
minerals with the potential to generate acid or 
alkaline leachate and may affect the 
environment for many years. 

Tailings have undergone physical and in 
some cases chemical changes and may have 
been ground so fine that they are more 
susceptible to erosion or chemical changes than 
in their original state. Or residual traces of 
treatment chemicals may be trapped in the rock. 
In general, tailings and waste areas occupy 
about 10% of the total area disturbed by 
mining. 



134 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Mill sites may require either a Notice or a 
Plan of Operations, depending on whether they 
are in designated special status areas or if they 
exceed 5 acres. 

Types of Operators 

A wide variety of mineral exploration and 
extraction occur on public land. Operations 
range from the lone prospector to corporate- 
driven enterprises. Operators have varied range 
of financing, expertise, resources, and abilities 
to develop mineral deposits. On the average all 
types of mineral operators have strong land 
stewardship and understand the need for a good 
environment. 

The lone prospector is working on locating 
that mother lode deposit that they can sell or 
lease to bigger operation to continue 
exploration or development of the mine. Small 
independent geologist and exploration 
companies are also trying to locate and define 
potential ore deposits that they can sell to even 
larger operations in order to develop. These 
types of operations are stacking capital, time, 
and labor into these projects in the hopes that in 
selling them they make a profit. 

Mining also has small operators. These 
operators consist of small families who work 
mining operations and whose wages consist of 
profits above the capital costs from their 
operations. Small operators work in the belief 
that time will make their efforts highly 
profitable. 

In addition, some people explore and mine 
for the enjoyment of the activity. These people 
and groups are engaging in a recreational past 
time. Developing minerals and earning profits 
from the activity are only secondary to the 
activity itself. 



And there are some operators whose intent 
is not to develop minerals. They derive their 
profits from investments received from others. 
They develop operations and sell shares of it, 
hoping to make a profit on the operations. 
Though few, these operations do occur on 
public lands. 

Operations backed by corporate resources 
has extensive abilities to explore and develop 
mineral properties. These companies usually 
have strong environmental policies and the 
ability to accomplish the needed tasks. Their 
overriding goal, however, is to make a profit. 

Past Activity Under the 43 CFR 
3809 Regulations 

BLM issued the 3809 regulations in 1981. 
The following information on past mining on 
the public lands was developed from Public 
Land Statistics (BLM various years) and 
internal BLM surveys. 

Between 1981 and 1997 a total of 20,700 
Notices and 3,400 Plans of Operations were 
submitted to BLM. An average of 1 ,200 Notices 
and 200 Plans of Operations have been 
submitted each year. But the number of 
operations has been decreasing over the last 
several years. In 1999 BLM received 155 Plans 
and 640 Notices. As of 1997, a total of 6,216 
Notices and 932 Plans of Operations were 
considered active (see Tables 3-2 and 3-3), 
meaning that operations under the Notices or 
Plans were ongoing. The remainder had been 
reclaimed, and BLM had determined that they 
were closed. A total of 177 and 155 Plans of 
Operations and 588 and 640 Notices were 
submitted in 1998 and 1999 respectively 
according to Public Land Statistics (BLM 
1999a, 2000a). The number of operations that 
have closed in the past 2 years is unavailable. 



135 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-2. Notice-Level Activity 


Type of Activity 


Submitted Since 1981 


Closed Since 1981 


Currently Active 




# Notices 


Acres 


# Notices 


Acres 


# Notices 


Acres 


Exploration 

Strip Mining 

Open Pit 

Placer 

Independent Mill Site 

Underground 


13,653 
257 
999 
5,012 
135 
644 


27,463 

738 

2,071 

12,133 

402 

1,101 


9,767 
155 
453 

3,382 

65 

386 


18,433 

460 

1,022 

8,670 

193 

678 


3,915 
102 
556 

1,317 

66 

260 


9,555 

278 

1,048 

3,472 

200 

436 


Total 


20,700 


43,908 


14,208 


12,866 


6,216 


14,989 



Table 3-3. Plan-Level Activity 


Type of Activity 


Submitted Since 1981 


Closed Since 1981 


Currently Active 




# Plans 


Acres 


# Plans 


Acres 


# Plans 


Acres 


Exploration 

Strip Mining 

Open Pit 

Placer 

Independent Mill Site 

Underground 


1,302 

87 

591 

1,288 
52 
85 


18,742 

13,123 

117,166 

7,993 

6,281 

6,514 


1,032 

66 

261 

949 

18 

39 


5,415 

8,332 

14,563 

6,269 

104 

399 


269 

22 

330 

232 

33 

46 


13,422 
4,790 
101,564 
1,724 
6,182 
6,115 


Total 


3,405 


169,819 


2,365 


35,082 


932 


133,797 



Tables 3-4 and 3-5 show the distribution of 
current mineral activity by state and the types 
of activity currently occurring on public lands 
in the study area. 



Table 3-4. Percentage Distriubtion of 1997 
Notices and Plans by Type of Activity 


Type of Operation 


Notices 


Plans 


Exploration 
Strip Mining 
Open Pit Mining 
Placer Mining 
Underground Mining 
Independent Mill Site 


63 
2 
9 

21 
4 
1 


29 

2 

35 

25 

4 

5 


Total 


100% 


100% 



136 



Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-5. Total 1997 Plans and Notices in Study Area 


State 


Total Notices 


% of Total 
Notices 


Total Plans 


% of Total 
Plans 


Alaska 

Arizona 

California 

Colorado 

Idaho 

Montana 

Nevada 

New Mexico 

Oregon/WA 

Utah 

Wyoming 


153 
909 

1,009 
264 
135 
300 

2408 

68 

386 

410 

174 


2 

15 

16 

4 

2 

5 

39 

1 

6 

7 

3 


47 
96 

290 
23 
35 
27 

277 

6 

38 

39 

54 


5 

10 

31 

2 

4 

3 

30 

1 

4 

4 

6 


Total 


6,216 


100 


932 


100 



The surface disturbance varies for each type 
of operation from an average of 300 acres of 
disturbance for open pit mines to 7.4 acres for 
placer mines. Disturbance for Notice-level 
exploration operations ranges from 0.5 to 4 
acres. Tables 3-2 and 3-3 show the estimated 
average number of acres disturbed by Notice- 
and Plan-level operations on public lands. The 



Notices and Plans closed means that 
reclamation has been completed and accepted 
by BLM. Current active operation may have the 
operation and reclamation completed but are 
still waiting for final reclamation clearance. 

Table 3-6 shows the number of notices of 
noncompliance that have been issued on public 
lands and the reasons they were issued. 



Table 3-6. Notices of Noncompliance 


Type of Activity 


Notice-Level Operations 


Plan-Level Operations 




# Issued Since 
1981 


# Currently 
Outstanding 


# Issued Since 
1981 


# Currently 
Outstanding 


Exploration 
Strip Mining 
Open Pit Mining 
Placer Mining 
Independent Mill Site 
Underground Mining 


384 

7 

88 

145 
26 
40 


138 

9 
24 
6 
4 


79 
4 
66 
70 
26 
13 


14 
2 

10 
9 
8 
3 


TOTAL 


690 


181 


258 


46 


Currently Outstanding Notices of Noncompliance 


Reason for Issuance 


Notice Level 


Plan Level 


Failure to File a Notice or Plan 

Issued During Operational Phase of Project 

Failure to Reclaim 


13% 
15% 
72% 


19% 
35% 
46% 


Total 


1 00% 


100% 



137 



Chapter 1 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



BLM issues notices of noncompliance only 
when operators fail to correct or discuss 
concerns. BLM will work with operators during 
compliance inspections and meetings before 
issuing notices of noncompliance. Under the 
current policy BLM will meet or inform the 
operator of a concern and work with the 
operator to remedy the concern to both BLM 
and the operator's satisfaction. Only when the 
operator refuses to address the concern with 
BLM do the noncompliance procedures begin 
with the issuing of a notice of noncompliance. 

The existing regulations call for three levels 
or procedures for incidents of noncompliance. 
At the first level, BLM issues a notice of 
noncompliance requiring operators to correct 
problems by a certain date. At the second level, 
if operators do not correct the noncompliance, 
BLM issues a record of noncompliance, and 
operators must post bond for their entire 
operations at 100% of reclamation costs. And at 
the third level, if operators take no further 
action, BLM sends their cases to the U.S. 
Attorney's Office to be resolved. Of the total 
incidents of noncompliance 76% have been 
resolved by notices of noncompliance, 15% by 
records of noncompliance, and 9% by the U.S. 
Attorney. 

Historically, the number of noncompliance 
issues have been small, amounting to about 4%, 
of the number of Notices and Plans submitted. 
These noncompliance issues have involved 
unnecessary or undue degradation to public 
lands, mainly reclamation not being completed. 
Conditions in these unreclaimed areas have 
degraded public lands and to various degrees 
are continuing to degrade public lands. 

Of the 254 active notices of noncompliance, 
208 are for Notice-level operations, and 46 are 
for Plan-level operations. BLM has issued 
notices of noncompliance to 3% of Notice-level 
operations and 4% of Plan-level operations; 
73% of all notices of noncompliance issued 
have been resolved. 



Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

Under all alternatives compliance with 
environmental regulations represents a cost to 
the mining industry and affects the level of 
mineral exploration and mining. Included are 
the following costs: 

• Costs of delays resulting from longer 
processing times. 

• Direct costs of conducting environmental 
studies. 

• Costs of having to use certain technology. 

Delays could result from an operation's not 
being able to mobilize on schedule because of 
weather and other restrictions. Delays could 
mean that a deposit would not be developed, 
production would not begin on schedule, and 
the operation would lose revenue. 
Environmental standards also increase the cost 
of doing business. 

These regulations and the expanded 
regulatory environment have had a cumulative 
effect on the mining industry's cost of doing 
business. The new state and federal regulations 
are requiring more time and monitoring from 
the operator to meet these new requirements. 
These types of activities relate to operations in 
cost. These costs range from less than 1 % of the 
total cost of the operations to as high as 20% of 
the overall operating budget. These cost vary 
greatly depending on an operation's site- 
specific resource concerns. 

The mining industry will continue to 
experience increased regulations and 
restrictions from state and federal agencies. 
Mandates such as the toxic release inventory 
will continue to require more reporting and 
monitoring of operations. Several sweeping 
regulatory changes to the Clean Water Act 



138 



Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



(CWA) programs are pending, and proposed 
and final test method changes show the breadth 
of changes to the CWA programs. The 
Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, 
Commerce, Defense, and Energy; the 
Environmental Protection Agency; the 
Tennessee Valley Authority; and the Army 
Corps of Engineers have also just developed a 
federal lands policy drafted to purportedly 
enhance implementing the Clean Water Act and 
the Administration's Clean Water Action Plan. 
Land use restrictions from zoning and mineral 
withdrawals will continue to restrict access to 
areas for mineral development. The changing 
agency policies, responding to environmental 
degradation, political pressures, and court cases, 
will change how the mining industry operates 
on public lands. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Administration of Surface Management 
Regulations. Under the No Action Alternative 
the mining industry would continue to operate 
under the existing 3809 regulations and would 
continue to assimilate the cost of the 
regulations. Operations would continue to be 
processed, and compliance would be completed. 
These regulations would result in no added cost 
to industry. 

Casual Use. Casual use should only 
negligibly disturb the environment. But major 
problems could arise when groups get together 
to recreate, explore for minerals, or placer mine 
for gold. Under these situations the cumulative 
impacts could exceed negligible levels, 
resources would be damaged, and the 
disturbance would generally not be reclaimed. 

For example, several dozen to more than 
100 people equipped with shovels and gold 
pans in a small area or section of stream can 
denude the vegetation, compact the soil, and 
result in a loss of deeper rooted vegetation. This 
disturbance could lead to streambank 
destabilization, resulting in a series of channel 
adjustments over a broader area. Such changes 
in turn this could lead to the loss of riparian 
areas. 

Notices. The existing regulations for 
Notices would require BLM to process actions 



in a short time period and allow operators to 
continue operations without delay. An 
interdisciplinary team would review Notices, 
but the review would be limited to 15 days. In 
some situations the review specialist could not 
review the document, and the project would 
proceed without this specialist's input. Under 
these conditions resource damage could result. 

A Notice could be used to operate in an 
environmentally sensitive area because the 
existing regulations list only a few areas that 
are environmentally sensitive and thus require a 
Plan of Operations. Any operations that are in 
sensitive areas but do not require Plans of 
Operations would increase the potential for 
degradation without the intense review provided 
for Plans. 

Notice provisions could be difficult to 
enforce because no reclamation bond is 
required for Notice-level activity. The lack of a 
bond and enforcement process could result in 
areas not being reclaimed when operators leave, 
although this is not a common practice. BLM 
issued about 500 notices of noncompliance (out 
of about 29,400 Notices filed since 1981) for 
failure to reclaim, representing 2% of all 
Notices submitted. 

Plans of Operations. Under No Action, 
BLM would continue to review in detail Plans 
of Operations, and these Plans would undergo 
environmental review under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA's 
analysis would allow for a more detailed review 
of operations and would ensure against 
unnecessary or undue degradation. 

Policy would require reclamation bonding 
for all chemical processing areas, but only a 
portion of the reclamation cost would be 
bonded for other facilities. BLM field offices 
might not uniformly implement bonds and other 
performance measures that BLM has developed 
by policy and experience. 

The current gold prices have affected the 
industry, and mining companies are going into 
bankruptcy and increasing BLM workloads. 
Workloads have increased as BLM tries to use 
the bond monies available and to acquire public 
monies to clean up these operations. On the 
basis of past bonding practices, the bond 



139 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



amounts are not adequate to completely reclaim 
the operations. In Nevada alone, 29 operations 
are in bankruptcy. 

Inspection and Enforcement. The existing 
regulations make timely resolving of 
noncompliance difficult and do not outline the 
need for consistent review of operations. As a 
result, BLM might not inspect operations in a 
timely manner, and resource degradation could 
result. 

Under the current process if an operation is 
in noncompliance, BLM would need more time 
for coordination with the operator and other 
organizations to resolve the noncompliance. If 
the operation does not conform to the Plan or 
Notice, BLM would issue a notice of 
noncompliance and request compliance within a 
certain time. If the operator still does not 
comply, the operation's file would be sent to the 
BLM state office for transmittal to the U.S. 
Attorney's Office. Because of the U.S. 
Attorney's workload and priorities, years could 
pass before the case could be settled and the 
environmental problem corrected. 

If the operation is abandoned and the case 
is not settled in the courts, there might be no 
bond to reclaim the operation and resolve all 
environmental concerns. The site would either 
not be reclaimed, or public monies would be 
used to reclaim it. In 1999 BLM surveyed its 
field offices, asking them to list all operations 
under the existing 3809 regulations that had 
been abandoned by their operators, and where 



Table 3-7. Acres Disturbed under Alternative 1 


Acres Disturbed 




Per 
Operation 


Per 
Year 


In 20 
Years 


Notice Level 
Plan Level 


2 acres 
50 acres 


1,200 
7,500 


24,000 
150,000 



BLM had spent, or was likely going to have to 
spend, funds to reclaim the land. The combined 
field office response listed some 530 such 
operations. The actual number of abandonments 
is even greater since not all abandoned 
operations will require remediation. Most of 
these are abandoned Notice-level operations. 
The amount of public monies needed to reclaim 
these sites is unknown at this time. 

Data from the recent past suggests that if 
the current rate of noncompliance persists, 
within the next 20 years BLM would issue 360 
notices of noncompliance for Notice-level 
activity and 120 for Plan-level activity. 

Administrative Practices. Under the 
existing regulations, mines proposed either for 
areas withdrawn from mineral entry or for 
extracting suspected common variety minerals 
under the Mineral Materials Act of 1947 and 
the 1955 Surface Resources Act would be 
processed under a Notice or a Plan of 
Operations. The operator would not have to 
demonstrate a valid claim before disturbing the 
surface. Potential environmental harm could 
result, and the Federal Government could lose 
revenue. 

Mineral Development. The overall number 
of Notices and Plans of Operations submitted 
under No Action is expected to decrease to the 
current 3-year trend and remain constant or 
decrease slightly. This trend is based on the 
existing regulations and the current regulatory 
environment for operations on public lands. 
Individual states might vary from the general 
trend in the number of Notices and Plans 
submitted. For this analysis, 600 Notices and 
150 Plans of Operations would be submitted 
each year. Over a 20-year period 12,000 
Notices and 3,000 Plans of Operations would 
be submitted. Table 3-7 shows the acreage that 
would be disturbed per operation and total acres 
that would be disturbed in 20 years under the 
No Action Alternative. 



140 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-8 shows the possible number of 
operations at the Notice and Plan levels by 
operation type during the next 20 years. 



Table 3-8. Notice- and Plan-Level Operations over a 
20- Year Period under Alternative 1 


Type of Operation 


Notices 


Plans 


Exploration 
Placer Mining 
Strip Mining 
Open Pit Mining 
Underground Mining 
Mill Site 


7,560 

2,520 

240 

1,080 

120 

480 


870 
750 
60 
1,050 
150 
120 


Total 


12,000 


3,000 



Exploration. Exploration activities would 
continue to be processed on the basis of the 
type of operation and the amount of surface 
disturbance. There would continue to be a short 
turnaround for operations working under 
Notices, and the industry should incur no more 
cost. Small independent geologists and 
prospectors would continue to pursue mineral 
deposits as allowed under the existing 
regulations. Most small operations and 
individuals mining for recreation would be 
considered casual use. 

Mining. Mining operations would continue 
under the existing regulations and policies, 
which include the cyanide management and 
acid rock drainage policies. Future policies 
could be developed to define environmental 
protection requirements under the existing 
regulations. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Administration of Surface Management 
Regulations. State mining regulations are 
relatively new and still evolving. The main 
regulatory provisions in most cases are less than 
8 years old, and many are newer (McElfish and 
others 1996). State programs are based either on 
requiring reclamation or preventing water 
pollution (or both). (See Appendix D.) 

Casual Use. Under the State Management 
Alternative state government would not review 
proposed mineral activities classified as casual 
use. Depending on the state requirements and 
minimum surface disturbance criteria, the 
mineral activity might not be reviewed. States 



would not require casual use operations to 
complete reclamation, and public lands could 
undergo unnecessary or undue degradation. 
BLM would have difficulty directly preventing 
degradation except through negotiations with 
state organizations. 

Notices. For Notice-level operations, 
depending on state requirements, operators may 
not be required to submit any documentation for 
review by a state organization. In some states, 
operations smaller than 5 acres are not required 
to be reclaimed. Such operations would still be 
required to meet state environmental protection 
and performance standards. 

Plans of Operations. Under State 
Management, depending on state criteria for 
surface disturbance or production, operations 
would be required to submit some form of a 
Plan of Operations to a state regulatory agency. 
The operation would have to meet performance 
standards and requirements of the state in which 
it is operating. Western states have 
environmental regulations that require some of 
the reviews outlined in BLM's existing 
regulations. Some states would require 
environmental reviews. Others would not. 
Operations would have to comply with water 
regulations and standards and monitoring 
outlined by the states. Bonding would also be 
required. Depending on the state program, bond 
monies may or may not be sufficient: to reclaim 
the operations. 

Inspection and Enforcement. Operations 
would have to undergo compliance inspections, 
but depending on the state organizations, 



141 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



standards or schedules might not be established. 
BLM would not issue notices of noncompliance 
under Alternative 2 and would not take be 
directly involved in enforcement actions. States 
would continue to enforce their own programs. 
(See Appendix D.) 



Mineral Development. According to the 
mineral activity projections in Appendix E, the 
overall range of change under State 
Management would be from a 0% to 5% 
increase in exploration and mining activity. 
(See Appendix E.) These changes, by activity 
type, are shown in Table 3-9. 



Table 3-9. Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 2 


Casual Use/ 
Suction 
Dredging 


Small 
Exploration 


Large 
Exploration 


Small 
Placer 


Large 
Placer 


Small 

Open 

Pit 


Large 

Open 

Pit 


Small 
Under- 
ground 


Large 
Under- 
ground 


Industrial 
Minerals 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 


Oto 

+5% 



Table 3-10 outlines the 
possible number of 
operations by type under the 
State Management 
Alternative for the next 20 
years. 



Table 3-10. Number of Operations under Alternative 2 over a 
20-Year Period 


Type of Operation 


<5 Acres 


>5 Acres 


Exploration 
Placer 
Strip 
Open Pit 
Underground 
Mill Site 


7,560 

2,520 

240 

1,080 

120 

480 


7,940 

2,650 

250 

1,130 

130 

500 


870 
750 
60 
1,050 
150 
120 


910 
790 
70 
1,100 
160 
130 


Total 


12,000 


12,600 


3,000 


3,160 



Under these assumptions, on the high end, 
630 operations would disturb less than 5 acres a 
year, and 160 operations that would disturb 
more than 5 acres a year. Over a 20-year period, 
from 12,000 to 12,600 operations would disturb 



less than 5 acres each, and from 3,000 to 3,160 
operations would disturb more than 5 acres 
each. Table 3-11 shows estimated acreage that 
would be disturbed under Alternative 2. 



Table 3-11. Acres Disturbed u 


nder Alternative 2 




Acres Disturbed 




Per Operation 


Per Year (0-5%) 


In 20 Years (0-5%) 


Notice Level 
Plan Level 


2 
50 


1,200 
7,500 


1,260 
8,000 


24,000 
150,000 


25,200 
158,000 



142 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Exploration. Depending on a state's 
regulations, potential exploration would 
increase because operations may not have to 
submit notifications to either BLM or some 
state agencies. The higher end of the range 
would be in states that do not require 
notification or the operator to spend extra 
capital and operational cost to cover exploration 
permitting. The smaller exploration companies, 
independent geologists, and prospectors could 
earn more profits in future property sales. The 
percentage of increase would depend on the 
state regulations that would need to be 
followed. Operations at the lower end of the 
range would be regulated by states with more 
restrictive regulations. Operations of all sizes 
should see a decrease in permitting costs. 

Mining. The range of change would be 
small for mines operating in states that have 
mining and reclamation regulations. The major 
change would be the amount of environmental 
work required from each state. Mines in states 
requiring environmental analysis documents 
similar to EAs and EISs, and plans with bonds 
would not experience any change. States not 
requiring environmental documents would see 
an increase in mining in response to a decrease 
in the cost of exploration in these areas. 
Operations of all sizes would see some decrease 
in the amount of permitting required to open a 
mine. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Administration of Surface Management 
Regulations. The proposed regulations would 
increase costs to the mining industry. 

Casual Use. Casual use would continue to 
consist of operations that cause negligible 
disturbance. People and organizations that are 
now conducting operations as casual use would 
continue to engage in exploration and mining 
for recreation and mineral development but 
could not cause surface disturbance above the 
definition of casual use without a Notice or 
Plan. The resulting decrease in cumulative 
impacts of casual use would improve 
environmental protection. 



BLM would be able to determine if many 
operations whose cumulative effects are causing 
degradation beyond casual use would require a 
Notice or a Plan of Operations. Preparing Plans 
or Notices would delay activities and affect 
small recreational activities. In responding to 
the submittal of Plans and Notices and 
providing timely response to recreational 
activities, BLM's workload would increase. 

Notices. Under the Proposed Action 
exploration involving less than 5 acres could 
operated occur under a Notice. Any mining in 
special category lands would require Plans of 
Operations. Under Notices, operators would be 
subject to performance standards that would 
minimize impacts to ensure against unnecessary 
or undue surface degradation. These standards 
would require the operator to design activities 
and take more time in developing operations. 
More time by BLM and the operator would be 
required to address the performance standards 
and determine the site-specific needs for the 
projects. This would increase costs for industry 
and the workload for BLM. 

The Proposed Action would require 
bonding for Notice-level operations. Reviewing 
and accepting a bond would require more work 
for BLM but would provide a way to enforce 
reclamation and mitigation. The cost of 
obtaining a bond, where one was not previously 
required, would be a considerable added 
expense to exploration operators. 

Plans of Operations. Plans of Operations 
would be expanded to include all types and 
sizes of mining operations. Exploration projects 
that disturb more than 5 acres or are in special 
category areas would also require Plans of 
Operations. BLM's workload would increase 
with all mining operations being required to 
submit Plans of Operations. 

BLM workload would increase with the 
need to review or coordinate several activities 
before approving a Plan. These activities would 
includes a 30-day public comment period in 
conjunction with the environmental analysis 
and consultation with other interested parties 
and agencies. 



143 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Environmental performance standards 
under the Proposed Action are similar to current 
BLM polices and guidelines in various states. 
BLM has developed policies on certain issues, 
such as cyanide management, through 
experience in working with the mining industry 
and the public. BLM has also applied its 
understanding of what actions or data are 
needed to prevent unnecessary or undue 
degradation. The Proposed Action has 
incorporated these policy standards into the 
regulations. No other impacts to industry or 
natural resources are expected from these 
standards other than greater consistency among 
BLM offices. 

Plans of Operations would require bonding 
for 100% of the estimated reclamation cost, 
increasing workloads by requiring BLM to 
review in more detail the reclamation plan and 
cost estimating. Bonding would result in a more 
a complete interdisciplinary review of the 
reclamation plan and assure the reclamation of 
disturbed land if the operator cannot meet their 
reclamation responsibilities. Mining companies 
would face more delays in stalling or modifying 
their projects. Funds for reclamation in the 
event of operator bankruptcy should be 
adequate to reclaim the operations. 

BLM might disapprove a plan if it does not 
meet the requirements of the regulations, the 
exploration or mining site lies within an area 
withdrawn from mineral entry, or the activity 
would result in unnecessary or undue 
degradation. This would be a significant impact 
on the operator and mineral resource 
development. 

Inspection and Enforcement. The 
Proposed Action would require a mandatory 
number of inspections for certain types of 
operations. The specific inspection frequency is 
already included in BLM policies and is not 
expected to increase BLM workloads. 

Enforcement provisions of the Proposed 
Action would include the use of suspension 
orders and discretionary penalties, which BLM 
could assign for noncompliance. These orders 
and penalties would slightly increase the 
workload to develop the case and defend the 
orders and penalties. But BLM would have 



greater legal recourse to use against operators 
who refuse to comply. 

Under the Proposed Action during a 20- 
year period 200 to 1 80 notices of 
noncompliance and suspension orders could be 
expected for Notice-level activity, and 260 to 
230 could be expected for Plan-level activity. 

Administration Practices. The Proposed 
Action would change the regulations to include 
Stock Raising Homestead Act lands whose 
surface is privately owned but whose mineral 
estate has been retained by the Federal 
Government. These new regulations would 
allow access to those lands for mineral 
resources but would apply only if the land 
owner and the mineral operator cannot agree on 
the development of the minerals. BLM's 
workload would increase with the development 
of Plans of Operations, but the number of Plans 
that would be submitted is uncertain. BLM's 
workload, however, would increase under all 
alternatives because recent amendments to the 
Stock Raising Homestead Act mandate BLM's 
involvement whenever the surface owner does 
not consent to mineral development. 

The Proposed Action would require a 
mineral validity exam for any operation in an 
area under mineral withdrawal. Before BLM 
can allow operations to start, the exam must 
show that the operator has the right under the 
Mining Law to disturb surface resources. By 
not being allowed to begin operations until the 
exam has been completed, an operator could 
lose revenue due to time delays. Conversely, if 
the operator does not have the right to develop 
the minerals, then the environmental resources 
would be protected. BLM's workload would 
increase because of the exam requirement. The 
validity exam is an extensive process that 
BLM-certified mineral examiners can complete. 

Under the Proposed Action, if a mineral is 
suspected of being of common variety, the 
operator might receive an interim authorization 
until a validity exam is conducted with a 
common variety determination. During the 
interim authorization, operators could continue 
to sample their site and conduct yearly 
assessment work to meet Mining Law 
requirements and hold their claims. Or they 



144 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



could develop an escrow account in a form 
acceptable to BLM. 

Developing an escrow account and 
depositing the fair market value of the material 
mined would allow operators to continue 
mining until the common variety determination 
has been completed.If the mineral is determined 
to be uncommon, the money would be refunded 
to the operator, who could proceed under the 
Mining Law. If the mineral is determined to be 
common and salable under 43 CFR 3600, the 
money would be paid to the U.S. Treasury. 

These regulations would increase BLM's 
workload by requiring BLM to review the 
proposals and determine if impacts have been 
minimized. BLM would also have to review 
operations to ensure that they have met the 
standards outlined in the regulations and 
determine if the impacts would be at the lowest 
practicable level. Under its current funding and 



staffing levels, BLM's increased workload 
would delay projects, and BLM might not be 
able to meet the 30 working day response time 
for Plans of Operations. 

Mineral Development. Implementing the 
Proposed Action is projected to decrease 
mineral activity across the study area. These 
changes by operation type for the Proposed 
Action are shown in Table 3-12. 

The largest potential decrease in mining 
could result because Plans of Operations would 
be required for many operations that under the 
existing regulations would need only a Notice. 
For all operations the requirement to avoid 
"significant irreparable harm" might delay or 
preclude operations. Although BLM is expected 
to invoke this standard rarely, the waiting and 
uncertainties of the requirement would reduce 
mineral activities. 



Table 3-12. Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 3 


Casual Use/ 
Suction 
Dredging 


Small 
Exploration 


Large 
Exploration 


Small 
Placer 


Large 
Placer 


Small 

Open 

Pit 


Large 

Open 

Pit 


Small 
Under- 
Ground 


Large 
Under- 
Ground 


Industrial 
Minerals 


-10 to 
-25% 


-10 to 
-20% 


-10 to 
-20% 


-10 to 
-20% 


-5 to 

-15% 


-10 to 
-30% 


-10 to 
-30% 


-10 to 

-20% 


-10 to 
-15% 


-5 to 

-15% 



Table 3-13 estimates the 
number of Notices and Plans 
that could be submitted over a 
20-year period for different 
types of mining operations 
under the Proposed Action. 



Table 3-13. Number of Mineral Operations under Alternative 3 
over a 20- Year Period 


Type of Operation 


Notice — Level 


Plan — Level 


Exploration 
Placer Mine 
Strip Mine 
Open Pit Mine 
Underground Mine 
Mill Site 


6,050 







6,800 







700 
2,650 

250 
1,500 

220 

490 


740 
2,980 

280 
1,900 

250 

550 


Totals 


6,050 


6,800 


5,810 


6,700 



145 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



From 300 to 340 Notices for exploration 
and from 290 to 330 Plans of Operations would 
be filed each year under the Proposed Action. 
Over a 20-year period, from 6,050 to 6,800 
Notices and from 5,810 to 6,700 Plans of 
Operations would be filed. 



Table 3-14. Acres Disturbed under Alternative 3 




Acres Disturbed 




Per Operation 


Per Year 


In 20 Years 


Notice Level 
Plan Level 


2 
2-50 


600 
6,100 


680 
6,900 


12,000 
122,500 


13,400 
143,000 



Table 3-14 shows the average acreage that 
would be disturbed by Notice- and Plan-level 
operations under the Proposed Action. 
Disturbance for operations that the Proposed 
Action would upgrade from the Notice to the 
Plan level was calculated at 2 acres per 
operation. 

Casual Use/Suction Dredging. Use of 
suction dredges would require planning further 
in advance before engaging in the activity. This 
requirement could reduce the number of suction 
dredging operations or result in more 
unauthorized activity on public lands from these 
operators. 

Exploration. Under the Proposed Action, 
exploration projects disturbing less than 5 acres 
would continue to submit a Notice to BLM. But 
Notice-level operations would require 
reclamation bonding at 100% of the cost of 
reclamation. This requirement would increase 
the costs of operations and could economically 
harm small independent geologists and 
prospectors, who might also have difficulty 
obtaining these bonds. The uncertainty of 
obtaining a bond would affect the entire range 
of mineral activity. 

Mining. All mining would require Plans of 
Operations. Therefore, mining operations that 
previously had only to submit Notices would 
have to submit Plans of Operations. All small 



operations (only 5 to 10 persons) would now be 
required to prepare Plans of Operations and 
environmental documentation. The 
environmental requirements and the level of 
detail for any operation would be based on site- 
specific locations and the type of operation 
proposed. Many of the small operators could be 

hard pressed to post the 
bond for Plan-level 
operations and meet 
environmental 
requirements. The 
range of decrease in 
mineral activity (0 to - 
30%) would result 
from the uncertainty of 
obtaining the required 
data, the amount of 
data, and the detail of the data and the difficulty 
of obtaining a bond either through bonding 
companies or other methods. 

Operators would have to post bond at 1 00% 
of the reclamation cost of operations. And 
bonds would be more difficult to obtain because 
corporate guarantees would not be allowed in 
future operations. 

The requirement to avoid unnecessary or 
undue degradation could cause operators to 
question whether a mine can be developed. The 
potential use of the "significant irreparable 
harm" standard could significantly discourage 
the development of mineral properties. BLM is 
expected to use this standard only minimally to 
deny operations. But that all activity would 
have to meet the requirement could greatly 
increase mitigation costs and operator expenses 
to the point where some operations would no 
longer be economically feasible. In addition, 
applying (or not applying the significant 
irreparable harm standard is expected to be 
extensively litigated in the administrative and 
judicial systems. The uncertainty of 
development of mineral properties could make 
industry unwilling to take the financial risk, 
even for exploration. The uncertainty of the 
proposal is shown in the range of decrease in 
mineral activity 



146 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Alternative 4: Maximum Protection 

Administration of Surface Management 
Regulations. The use of technical design 
standards might reduce the flexibility that 
operations have under the existing regulations 
and could reduce the level of exploration and 
mining. BLM would outline to the operator 
which technical standards to use. If the 
standards fail to protect the environment, the 
industry could argue that it would not have to 
take remedial actions because it has followed 
the standards and completed the process exactly 
as outlined. The mining industry could further 
argue that it is not liable for the damage because 
of the failure or inadequacies of the technical 
standard. 

Casual Use. Casual use could continue once 
BLM has reviewed a proposal and determined 
that an action is casual use or that a Plan of 
Operations must be submitted. Operators would 
either have to write or visit BLM to determine if 
the operation consists of causal use. Having to 
review proposals and make these determinations 
would increase BLM's workload. 

Notices. Alternative 4 would discontinue 
Notices, which would significantly affect 
exploration operators. 

Plans of Operations . All actions that do not 
meet the casual use definition would require 
Plans of Operations. Operators would have to 
plan more time to develop mining actions so 
that BLM could process them. Exploration 
would have more scheduling problems because 
it is based on current information that is being 
developed for a potential target. During 
exploration, information could change and 
require operators to change their exploration 
plans. These changes could delay drilling and 
the overall operation because of the wait for 
additional approval. These delays could be 
costly in time and money. Developing Plans of 
Operations would be a complicated and time- 
consuming process. 

Under Alternative 4, BLM could deny a 
mining permit under any of the following 
conditions: 



• The operation could not prevent irreparable 
harm. 

• Wetlands and wildlife habitat could not be 
reclaimed within 10 years. 

• Water would have to be treated for more than 
20 years after closure. 

These determinations would be based on 
predictive models and professional opinion, and 
the predicted impact might or might not occur. 
These decisions would restrict the mining 
industry from accessing minerals on public 
lands. 

Alternative 4 would further restrict mineral 
entry by requiring BLM to perform validity 
exams for all operations and for 
common/uncommon variety minerals. Before 
approving Plans of Operations for mining BLM 
would also have to develop a feasibility study 
for proposed mines to determine if mining 
would be feasible. Preparing these documents 
would be time consuming and require more 
expertise on BLM's staff. But these documents 
would give BLM the information for 
determining if the project should go forward 
before any land is disturbed. 

Under Alternative 4 industry would use the 
best available technology and practices for 
actions on mining operations. These 
technologies might or might not directly apply 
to the mining industry. 

Operations would also be required to post a 
bond for 100% reclamation and money for 
unplanned events. Calculating a bond for 
unplanned events would be difficult. 

Reviewing Plans of Operations under 
Alternative 4 would increase BLM's workload. 
Under current funding and staffing levels 
projects would be delayed. 

Inspection and Enforcement. Alternative 4 
would require operators to have third-party 
contractors complete monitoring of the 
operation, and monitoring reports would have to 
be given to BLM for verification. The review of 
these documents would require more time and 
money for BLM. 



147 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



If an issue of noncompliance arises, BLM 
would be required to take enforcement actions 
and automatically penalize the operator. BLM 
would issue penalties and could strain the 
working relationship between the agency and 
the operator. Mandatory penalties could make it 
difficult for BLM to attain compliance, would 
prohibit the approval of other permits, and 
would further strain working relationships. 
These types of automatic penalties could make 
it difficult for BLM and the operator to work 
out problems. On the other hand, penalties 
could keep some operations in compliance. 
Automatic noncompliance could increase 
BLM's workload. An estimated 1,000 notices of 
noncompliance for mining are expected to be 
issued on public lands during a 20-year period 
under Alternative 4. 



Administration practices. Any appeal of 
BLM's decision would automatically stay the 
decision. The project would then have to be 
reviewed by the Interior Board of Land Appeals 
(IBLA) before the operation could continue. 
Historic data shows that this requirement could 
delay a project for up to 2 years. The use of 
appeals could create a backlog of cases and 
further delay IBLA's review and the operation. 
An appeal could be used to stop mining and 
could effectively shut down operations before 
they start. 

Mineral Development. A mining decrease 
of 10% to 75% is projected to result from 
implementing Alternative 4. These changes are 
shown in Table 3-15. 



Table 3-15. Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 4 


Casual Use/ 
Suction 
Dredging 


Small 
Exploration 


Large 
Exploration 


Small 
Placer 


Large 

Placer 

Pit 


Small 

Open 

Pit 


Large 

Open 

Pit 


Small 
Under- 
Ground 


Large 
Under- 
Ground 


Industrial 
Minerals 


-5 to 

-15% 


-20 to 
-30% 


-20 to 
-30% 


-20 to 
-30% 


-15 to 
-25% 


-50 to 
-75% 


-50 to 
-75% 


-15 to 

-25% 


-10 to 
-20 % 


-10 to 
-20% 



Table 3-16 outlines the 
possible number of Plan-level 
operations over a 20-year 
period under Alternative 4. 



Table 3-16. Number of Mineral Operations under Alternative 4 
over a 20- Year Period 


Type of Operation 


Small 
Operations 


Large 
Operations 


Exploration 
Placer 
Strip 
Open Pit 
Underground 
Mill Site 


5,300 

1,770 

190 

270 

90 

340 


6,050 
2,010 
220 
540 
100 
380 


610 
560 

45 
260 
120 

90 


700 

640 
50 
530 
130 
100 


Total 


7,960 


9,300 


1,685 


2,150 



148 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-17. Acres Disturbed under Alternative 4 


Operation 
Size 


Acres 
Disturbed 

per 
Operation 


Acres 

Disturbed 

per 
Year 


Acres 
Disturbed 

in 
20 Years 


Average 
Small 


2 


800 


940 


15,920 


18,600 


Average 
Large 


50 


4,000 


5,500 


84,250 


107,500 



Under the assumptions in Appendix E, from 
400 to 470 small Plans of Operations and from 
80 to 110 large Plan of Operations could be 
submitted a year under Alternative 4. Over a 
20-year period, from 7,960 to 9,300 small Plans 
of Operations and 1,685 to 2,150 larger Plans of 
Operations could be submitted. Table 3-17 
shows acres that would be disturbed under these 
operations. 

Exploration. Under Alternative 4 all 
exploration would be conducted under Plans of 
Operations. These operations would lose the 
flexibility they had with Notices and require 
more time for Plan review. Exploration projects 
easily change during operations in response to 
the type of information one receives during 
drilling. These changes would not be easily 
managed as modifications to Plans of 
Operations. The need to visit BLM offices to 
review projects just for hand samples would 
also slow the process and cost people and 
organizations time and labor. People planning 
outdoor activities would have to plan far 
enough ahead to talk to the BLM office with 
jurisdiction before engaging in the activity. 
With BLM offices often so far away, people 
might have a difficult time discussing the 
project and getting it approved before engaging 
in outdoor recreation. BLM's authority to reject 
a project would further restrict areas open to 
mineral exploration and development. 



Mining. Operators would 
experience delays in the 
permitting process because of 
all the new information and 
situations required for Plans. 
Bonding for 100% plus 
unplanned events would be 
difficult to establish for 
operations. Smaller operations 
disturbing less that 5 acres 
would have further delays in 
getting Plans approved because 
of the need to collect baseline information. 
Outdoor activities that before had required only 
a Notice or were considered casual use might 
require Plans of Operations. This requirement 
would restrict access to minerals for these types 
of operations such as the weekend use of 
suction dredges. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Administration of Surface Management 
Regulations. Alternative 5 would result in 
increased cost to the mining industry. 

Casual Use. Under Alternative 5 casual use 
should only negligibly disturb the environment. 
But major problems would arise when groups 
get together to recreate, explore for minerals, or 
placer mine for gold. In these situations 
cumulative impacts could exceed negligible 
levels, resources would be damaged, and the 
disturbance would generally not be reclaimed. 

Notices. Under Alternative 5 all exploration 
disturbing less than 5 acres could be operated 
under Notices. But any mineral activities on 
special status lands would still require Plans of 
Operations. Alternative 5 would also require 
bonding for Notice-level operations. Reviewing 
and accepting a bond would require more work 
for BLM but would provide a way to enforce 
reclamation and mitigation requirements. 



149 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Plans of Operations. Plans of Operations 
would be expanded to include all types and 
sizes of mining and milling, as well as 
exploration projects that disturb more than 5 
acres or are in special status areas. BLM's 
workload would increase with mining 
operations being required to submit Plans of 
Operations. 

BLM would need to review or coordinate 
several conditions before approving Plans. For 
Example, Plans of Operations may require a 
public comment period in coordination with the 
environmental analysis. 

For operations under Plans Alternative 5 
would require bonding for 100% of 
reclamation. Bonding would increase workloads 
by requiring BLM to review in more detail the 
reclamation plan. But bonding would allow for 
a complete interdisciplinary review of the 
reclamation plan and the complete reclamation 
of disturbed land if an operator defaults. As a 
result, mining companies would face more 
delays in starting or modifying their projects 
than they now do. 

Inspection and Enforcement. Enforcement 
provisions of Alternative 5 would include the 
use of suspension orders and discretionary 
penalties, which BLM could assign for 
noncompliance. These orders and penalties 
would slightly increase the workload to develop 
the case and defend the orders and penalties. 
But BLM would have more legal recourse to be 
used against operators who refuse to comply. 



Under Alternative 5, during a 20-year 
period, from 180 to 200 notices of 
noncompliance and suspension orders could be 
expected for Notice-level activity. From 230 to 
260 could be expected for Plan-level activity. 

Administration Practices. Mines proposed 
either for areas withdrawn from mineral entry 
or for extracting suspected common variety 
minerals, could be processed under either a 
Notice or a Plan of Operations. The operator 
might not have to demonstrate a valid claim 
before disturbing the surface. Potential 
environmental impacts could result, and the 
Federal Government could lose revenue, if 
BLM discretion is not used to verify claim 
requirements before accepting a Notice or 
approving a Plan. 

Mineral Development. Implementing the 
NRC Recommendations Alternative is projected 
to decrease mining by 1 0% or less overall 
across the study area. These changes by 
operation type are shown in Table 3-18. 

The largest potential decrease in mining 
could result when a Plan of Operations would 
be required for an operation that under the 
existing regulations would need only a Notice. 
These operations would mainly be small mining 
operations which were allowed under a Notice 
but now would be under a plan of operation. 
The cost model for small placer operations (see 
Appendix E) projects shows a potential 34% 
increase in some costs when a Plan of 
Operations rather than a Notice would have to 
be prepared. 



Table 3-18. Changes in Mineral Activity under Alternative 5 


Casual Use/ 
Suction 
Dredging 


Small 
Exploration 


Large 
Exploration 


Small 
Placer 


Large 
Placer 


Small 

Open 

Pit 


Large 

Open 

Pit 


Small 
Under- 
Ground 


Large 
Under- 
Ground 


Industrial 
Minerals 


0% 


Oto 

-5% 


Oto 

-5% 


-5 to 
-10% 


Oto 

-5% 


-5 to 
-10% 


Oto 

-5% 


-5 to 
-10% 


Oto 

-5% 


-5 to 
-10% 



150 



Chapter? - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-19 
outlines the possible 
number of Notices 
and Plans that could 
be submitted over a 
20- year period for 
different types of 
mining operations 
under the Proposed 
Action. 



Table 3-19. Number of Mineral Operations under Alternative 5 over a 
20-year Period 


Type of 
Operation 


Notice Level 


Plan Level 


Exploration 
Placer 
Strip 
Open Pit 
Underground 
Mill Site 


7,180 







7,560 







830 
2,980 

270 
1,970 

240 

540 


870 
3,140 

290 
2,080 

270 

580 


Totals 


7,180 


7,560 


6,830 


7,230 



Overall, mining is expected to decrease by 
10% or less. The decrease would not 
necessarily to be reflected in the overall number 
of operations on public lands. The mining 
industry could absorb these changes through 
shorter mine lives, high cutoff grades, 
discontinued exploration, and lower profits. 

For these assumptions, from 360 to 380 
Notices and from 340 to 360 Plans of 
Operations would be filed each year under 
Alternative 5. Over a 20-year period, operators 
would file from 7,180 to 7,560 Notices and 
6,830 to 7,230 Plans of Operations. 

Table 3-20 shows the average acreage that 
Notice- and Plan-level operations would disturb 
under Alternative 5. 

Exploration. Under Alternative 5, 
operations disturbing less than 5 acres would 
continue to explore and develop mineral 
deposits by submitting a Notices. But Notices 
would require reclamation bonds at 100% of the 
cost of reclamation. This bonding requirement 
would increase operating costs for small 



independent geologists and prospectors, who 
could not easily obtain these bonds. The 
difficulty and uncertainty of obtaining bonding 
could affect exploration operations of all sizes. 
Mining. All mining would require Plans of 
Operations under Alternative 5, and all formerly 
Notice-level mining operations would 
eventually require Plans of Operations if they 
expanded. All small operations (only 5 to 1 
people) would have to develop Plans of 
Operations and environmental documentation. 
The environmental requirements and the level 
of detail for any operation would be based on 
the site-specific locations and the type of 
operations proposed. Many small operators 
could be hard pressed to post the required bond 
at 100% of an operation's estimated reclamation 
cost. The range of change in mineral activity (- 
5% to -10%) would result from the uncertainty 
of obtaining the required data, the amount of 
data, and the detail of the data and the difficulty 
of obtaining a bond either through bonding 
companies or other methods. 



Table 3-20. Acres Disturbed under Alternative 5 


Acres Disturbed 




Per Operation 


Per Year 


In 20 Years 


Notice Level 
Plan Level 


2 
2-50 


718 
7,400 


758 
8,870 


14,360 
149,980 


15,120 
158,460 



151 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Hazardous Materials 
and Waste 
Management 

Affected Environment 

Hazardous Materials Management 

The term "hazardous materials" is defined 
in 49 CFR 172.101. Hazardous substances are 
defined in 40 CFR 302.4 and in the 
Comprehensive Environmental Response, 
Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as 
amended by the Superfund Amendments and 
Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III. 
Hazardous materials and substances may be 
transported, stored, and used at any mine. 
Typical processing chemicals include sodium 
cyanide, calcium oxide (lime), hydrochloric 
acid, antiscalants, flocculants, and sodium 
hydroxide. Cleaning solvents, blasting agents, 
and diesel fuel for mining equipment may also 
be used. 

The Department of Transportation has 
compiled a list of materials classified as 
hazardous for transportation purposes (49 CFR 
172.101) and prescribes packaging and labeling 
requirements for each designated hazardous 
material. This list includes the hazardous 
substances regulated under CERCLA as well as 
other types of chemicals. In addition to the 
hazardous substances described above, the 
transporting of sodium hydroxide, ammonium 
nitrate, class A explosives, diesel fuel, and 
calcium oxide (lime) must comply with 
Department of Transportation hazardous 
materials packaging and labeling requirements. 

Chemicals used in mining must be stored in 
compliance with a variety of regulations and 
procedures. Fuel storage areas must be built 
with synthetic liners or a concrete containment 
area to store above-ground bulk fuel tanks. All 
other petroleum products and chemicals must 
be stored in lined containment areas with at 
least 110% secondary containment capacity. 
Lubricants are usually contained in a mobile 
service truck. Bulk lubricants and petroleum 
products must remain stored at the main mobile 



maintenance shop. Sodium cyanide is stored in 
areas physically separate from acid storage, and 
blasting agents and explosives must be stored 
and used on site according to Mine Safety and 
Health Administration regulations (30 CFR 56, 
subpart E). Users of blasting agents must 
maintain a valid Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, 
and Firearms permit. 

Some mines are classified as large-quantity 
generators of hazardous waste as defined by the 
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 
(RCRA). A large-quantity generator generates 
more than 1 ,000 kilograms per month of 
RCRA-regulated hazardous waste (40 CFR 
262). Other mines can be classified as 
conditionally exempt small-quantity generators 
of hazardous waste, as defined by RCRA. A 
small-quantity generator generates less than 100 
kilograms a month of RCRA-regulated 
hazardous waste. 

Laboratory waste that exhibits hazardous 
waste characteristics, including off-specification 
commercial chemicals and assay wastes, are 
managed as hazardous waste. A short-term 
hazardous waste storage facility is built for 
storing these wastes for up to 90 days. 
Hazardous wastes are hauled to an approved 
facility for disposal. 

Hazardous wastes other than laboratory 
wastes are also managed in the short-term 
storage facility before being shipped to an off- 
site licensed disposal facility. These materials 
may include waste paints, thinner, and spill 
cleanup items. Spent solvents and used oils are 
returned to recycling facilities. 

Waste Management 

Mining also generates nonhazardous waste. 
Most of this waste includes mill tailings, waste 
rock, spent leach ore, and solvent extraction and 
eletrowinning wastes ("SX/EW"). Mine waste 
are excluded from regulation as hazardous 
waste under the Resource Conservation and 
Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA): 40 CFR 261, 
mining waste exclusion: final rule, Federal 
Register Vol. 54, No. 169, September 25, 1989: 
40 CFR parts 260, 261, 262, Mining Waste 
Exclusion and Definition of Designated 



152 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Facility; proposed rule, Federal Register Vol. 
54, No. 184, September 25, 1989; 40 CFR 260, 
261, 262, Mining Waste Exclusion; Section 
3010 Notification for Mineral Processing 
Facilities; Designated Facility Definition; 
Standards Applicable to Generators of 
Hazardous Waste; final rule, Federal Register 
Vol. 55, No. 15, January 23, 1990. These wastes 
are managed on the mine site through the site- 
specific reclamation or closure plan. Their 
disposal method depends on their chemical 
nature and potential to generate leachate. 

Nonhazardous wastes generated by mining 
include waste paper, wood, scrap metal, used 
tires, and other domestic trash. These materials 
are disposed of in designated landfills. These 
sites are usually developed onsite as part of the 
operating and reclamation plans and are 
covered under 40 CFR 268. Analytical 
procedures at an on-site laboratory generate 
hazardous and nonhazardous waste. 
Nonhazardous solid wastes from the laboratory 
are disposed of at the landfill. 

To date, the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA) has not established a regulatory 
framework for regulating mining wastes under 
Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and 
Recovery Act (RCRA). For purposes of this 
EIS, BLM assumes that this status will 



continue. If EPA does establish regulations for 
mining wastes, BLM would coordinate with 
EPA. 

Emergency Response 

The Comprehensive Environmental 
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act 
(CERCLA) creates a framework for the federal 
response to hazardous substance releases. For 
this program to be effective, the Federal 
Government must be informed immediately of 
releases that may require rapid response to 
protect public health and the environment. 
Notification is needed if an amount of a 
hazardous substance equal to or greater than its 
reportable amount is released to the 
environment within a 24-hour period. 
Following notification, federal workers evaluate 
the need for a federal response, and removal or 
remedial actions are initiated, if necessary. For 
emergency response planning under the 
Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization 
Act (SARA), Title III, a threshold planning 
quantity is established for each hazardous 
substance. The threshold planning quantity and 
reportable quantity values for sodium cyanide 
are 100 lbs. and 10 lbs. respectively. CERCLA 
excludes petroleum products as hazardous 
substances. If an operation is expected to store 



Table 3-21. Outline for Emergency Response Plan 



I. Introduction 

II. Emergency Coordinator Information; Emergency Phone Numbers (40 CFR 262.34 [d][5]) 

III. Preparedness, Prevention Contingency Plan 

1 ) PPC Plan (40 CFR 265, subpart C and ARS 26-347) 

A. Maintenance and Operation of Facility 

B. Required Equipment 

C. Testing and Maintenance of Equipment 

D. Access to Communication or Alarm Systems 

E. Required Aisle Span 

F. Arrangements with Local Authorities 

G. Transportation Routes 

2) Hazardous Waste Training for Employees 

3) Emergency Plan for Hazardous Materials 

4) Disaster Plan 

5) Acid Handling Procedures 

6) Emergency/safety Equipment Lists and Locations; Evacuation Plan and Routes 

7) Spill Prevention Control Countermeasure Plan 

8) Maps, Illustrations 



153 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



chemicals that exceed their threshold planning 
levels, an emergency response plan is required. 

Mining operations that store, use, or 
generate regulated materials must have an 
emergency response plan as required by 
CERCLA (Table 3-21). Part of the emergency 
response plan is a spill prevention, control, and 
countermeasure (SPCC) plan. This plan would 
cover all materials stored at the mine site and 
must be reviewed and updated at least every 3 
years, or whenever major changes are made in 
managing these materials. 

The emergency response plan outlines 
actions that would be initiated, and by whom, in 
event of a release or spill from a component of 
a fluid management system. The fluid 
management system includes the process 
recovery system, piping, pumping, ditches, and 
other items used in the managing and fluid 
containment of the leaching and processing 
facilities. The emergency response plan also 
applies to spills of stored chemicals and 
petroleum products. All chemicals must be 
stored and handled according to manufacturer 
recommendations and state regulations. 

The material safety data sheets for all 
chemicals used on a mine site and emergency 
response plan and the emergency response plan 
itself should be kept where they are readily 
accessible by workers. 

Release and Spill Reporting 

Discoverers of chemical or petroleum 
product spills or accidental discharges from any 
component of the fluid management system 
must immediately shut down that portion of the 
failed system to eliminate the discharge and 
then notify their immediate supervisors. 
Procedures should then be followed, in 
response to the time of the event, including 
other proper notification of mine workers, as 
specified in the emergency response plan. 

The notification process usually entails 
contacting local, state, and federal people who 
have responsibilities in emergency response. 
Depending on the nature of the release or spill, 
equal to or greater than that of its reportable 
quantity, the National Response Center could be 



contacted. These notifications are based on 
local, state, and federal requirements and 
outlined in the emergency response plan. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

The storage of chemicals, hazardous waste, 
and other waste is regulated by the acts and 
regulations outlined previously. None of the 
alternatives would reduce the effectiveness of 
emergency responses to releases and spills. The 
risks of transportation accidents, equipment 
failure, and human error resulting in a spill or 
release would continue. The level of risk would 
be determined by the relative amount of activity 
and proximity to environmentally sensitive 
lands and habitats. All spills or releases during 
any operation will have some form of risk 
analysis completed to determine the level of 
cleanup needed to meet all state and federal 
regulations and determine the natural resource 
contamination risk acceptable to the land 
management agency. 

These regulations and the expanded 
regulatory environment have had a cumulative 
affect on the mining industry's cost of doing 
business. The new state and federal regulations 
are requiring more time and monitoring from 
the operator to meet these new requirements. 
These types of activities impose costs to 
operations. These costs range from less than 1% 
of the total cost of the operations to as high as 
20% of the overall operational budget. These 
cost vary greatly, depending on a mineral 
operation's site-specific resource concerns. 

Land use restrictions from zoning and 
mineral withdrawals will continue to restrict 
access to areas for mineral development. The 
changing policies of agencies in response to 
environmental degradation, political pressures, 
and court cases will change how industry will 
operate on public lands. 

New hazardous materials issues are 
affecting the mining industry. On May 1, 1997, 
EPA published a final rule to expand the Toxic 



154 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Release Inventory Reporting Program under 
Section 313 of the Community Right-To-Know 
Act (EPCRA) by adding metal mining, among 
other industrial groups. Reporting requirements 
are extensive, and initial reports were due by 
July 1, 1999. On another waste management 
issue, in May 1998, EPA published land 
disposal restrictions for mineral processing 
wastes. These restrictions include treatment 
standards based on the performance of best 
demonstrated available technologies (BDAT). 
[See 63 Fed. Reg. 28556 (May 26, 1998).] The 
minerals industry will continue to experience 
increased regulations and restrictions from state 
and federal agencies. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

The improper management of mine waste 
could affect natural resources. Under current 
law-the Bevill Amendment- most mine wastes 
are exempt from the hazardous classification 
and regulation by legal definition. While some 
mine wastes might not pass a nonhazardous 
testing standard, they would still legally be 
handled as nonhazardous waste. Pond sludge is 
an example of mine waste that might be 
technically hazardous yet legally could be 
reclaimed in place. Depending on how 
materials are reclaimed, they might leach into 
soils and ground water. Soils could attenuate 
heavy metals so that they could be absorbed by 
plants and enter the food chain. 

Although there are no specific standards 
other than isolation and control of toxic or 
deleterious substances, the Plan of Operations 
review process provides a mechanism for BLM 
to consider mine waste character and provide 
for waste disposal in an environmentally sound 
manner on a site specific basis. But mine waste 
is difficult to manage because some operators 
are reluctant to test waste that is exempt from 
classification as a hazardous material. When 
processing a mining Notice it becomes even 
more difficult to ensure that mine waste is 
properly handled because of the limited review 
times and content requirements. 



Alternative 2: State Management 

Under some state programs, mine waste 
might not be characterized adequately to 
determine its potential for causing 
contamination. Without knowledge of the 
material's pollution potential, an operation 
might not be properly reclaimed. BLM, as land 
owner, might not know of the waste disposal 
situation and could be held environmentally and 
financially liable for the cleanup if onsite 
disposal later degrades the environment. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Under the Proposed Action several factors 
would reduce the potential for both hazardous 
and nonhazardous mining-related wastes to 
harm the environment. Eliminating the Notice 
provision for small mines would give BLM 
more opportunity to review, characterize, and 
plan for proper disposal of mine wastes from 
these small operations. The addition of 
reclamation bonding would ensure that wastes 
are properly disposed of if the operator is 
unable to do so. The information requirements 
specified for characterization, reclamation, and 
monitoring as part of a Plan of Operations 
would give BLM the information needed to 
evaluate the potential impacts of mine waste 
management. Mine waste testing would 
determine the potential for generating 
unacceptable leachate. The testing would also 
ascertain the best approach to reclaiming mine 
waste disposal areas. The expanded detail in the 
performance standards would reduce confusion 
over reclamation requirements when it comes to 
waste disposal and provide for greater 
consistency across BLM offices. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Under Alternative 4 potentially toxic mine 
wastes such as pond sludges and lab wastes 
could not be disposed of on BLM-administered 
lands. This prohibition would, eliminate any 
potential impacts or added cost to BLM from 
improper disposal of this material. Other 



155 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



mining waste products such as tailings and 
waste rock could still be disposed of on BLM 
lands. The Plan of Operations review process 
would be used to determine the mine waste 
character, placement, reclamation, and 
monitoring needs. This process would reduce 
potential environmental impacts similar to those 
under Alternative 3. In addition, expanded bond 
coverage for unplanned events such as spills or 
facility failures could offset the government's 
cost in responding to and starting removal or 
remedial actions for hazardous waste or mine 
waste environmental releases. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

The elimination of mining under a Notice 
and the bonding of all mining and milling 
operations would give BLM more opportunity 
to review, characterize, and plan for proper 
disposal of mine wastes from these small 
operations. The addition of reclamation bonding 
would ensure that waste is properly disposed of 
if the operator cannot do so. Alternative 5 
would increase the level of environmental 
protection from improper mine waste 
management beyond that provided by the 
existing regulations. But Alternative 5 would 
not be as beneficial as Alternative 3, with its 
expanded Plan content requirements and 
specific performance standards. 

Climate 

Affected Environment 

The study area consists of several major 
climatic types. Temperatures vary mostly with 
latitude, elevation, moisture, and to a lesser 
extent local microclimate. At higher elevations 
in the study area freezing temperatures are 
possible throughout the year. 

Annual precipitation is highly variable, due 
mainly to the orographic effect of local 
topography and the large-scale variability of 
storm tracks in respect to large water bodies. 
Except in coastal areas, the Pacific Southwest, 
and areas with high snowpack, most 
precipitation comes from thunderstorms in the 



spring to fall. Snowfall is possible at higher 
latitudes and elevations throughout the year, 
with snow accumulation amounts increasing 
with elevation. 

Upper-level winds generally prevail from 
the west and southwest (with alternating 
southerly flow in the east), but ground-level 
winds often reflect local terrain. For example, 
the diverse and rugged terrain in mountains 
results in complex wind flows and surface 
winds. Synoptic (pressure gradient) winds may 
be channeled or forced around hills, but without 
strong gradient flows, diurnal 
upslope/downslope winds predominate. 
Upslope winds usually blow on sunny mornings 
when the air at higher elevations heats rapidly 
and rises. Downslope winds blow when the air 
near the ground cools, becomes dense, and 
sinks downward along drainages. 

The extent of vertical and horizontal mixing 
is related to the atmospheric stability and 
mixing depth. Unstable conditions normally 
result from strong surface heating (typical of 
summer afternoons), producing vertical winds. 
Neutral conditions reflect a breezy, well-mixed 
atmosphere. Stable conditions (enhanced by 
rapid radiative cooling and downslope drainage, 
high pressure systems, etc.) produce the least 
amount of dispersion. 

Although the atmospheric mixing varies 
throughout the study area, dispersion is 
normally good in spring and summer, but 
limited in winter. Inversions are formed under 
stable conditions, trapping air pollutants within 
a layer of the atmosphere. Moderate summer 
inversions are typical during the evening and 
dissipate at dawn. Winter inversions are 
stronger and last longer. Inversions are 
enhanced by weak pressure gradients, cold clear 
nights, snow cover, and lower elevations. 

Public lands in the study area are found in 
several general climatic regions, including 
Arctic Alaska, Interior Alaska, Coastal Alaska, 
Coastal Pacific (North and South), California 
Central Valley, Columbia Plateau/Snake River 
Basin, Great Basin, Southwestern Desert, 
Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateau, Western 
Great Plains, Eastern Temperate Plains, and 
Southern Subtropical Plains. In addition, 



156 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



microclimatic conditions make mountainous, 
highland climates highly variable, including the 
Cascade/Sierra Nevada Mountains, Northern 
Rocky Mountains, and Southern Rocky 
Mountains climatic regions. Even these regional 
climatic divisions are necessarily broad 
generalizations of highly complex conditions. 

Environmental 



Consequences 



Although locatable mineral development 
would not significantly affect climate, it is 
appropriate to examine the impact of climate on 
postmining vegetation reclamation (McKee and 
others 1981). Throughout most of the United 
States the timing and amount of precipitation 
are the main limiting factors for vegetation 
growth. Although temperatures also affect 
growth, warming temperatures typically dictate 
when growth begins, not if it will occur. Major 
exceptions to this assumption include the 
following: 

• Coastal Alaska, the northern coastal Pacific, 
the eastern temperate plains, and the southern 
subtropical plains, where precipitation is 
abundant. 

• Arctic and interior Alaska and portions of the 
Cascades/Sierra Nevada, and northern and 
southern Rocky Mountains, where extreme 
cold conditions inhibit plant growth. 

• Portions of the Great Basin and the 
southwestern deserts, where extreme summer 
temperatures often create both spring and fall 
growing periods. 

By comparing the short-term weather 
situation to long-term climatic conditions, 
vegetation managers can adjust the timing and 
methods for postmining vegetation reclamation. 
For example, dry soil conditions resulting from 
multiple years of below-normal precipitation 
will require excess moisture to adequately 
prepare vegetation for the growing period. 
Similarly, extended periods of summer moisture 
may compensate for a dry spring. Other 
biological relationships will determine the 



proper selection of seed and root stock, the 
occurrence and timing of plant development, 
and root growth. 

Air Quality 

Affected Environment 

The air quality throughout much of the 
United States is unknown. Only limited 
monitoring data exists for most pollutants 
outside urban areas. But in the undeveloped 
regions of the West ambient pollutant levels are 
expected to be near or below measurable limits. 
Locations vulnerable to decreasing air quality 
from extensive development include immediate 
operation areas (mills, power plants, prescribed 
fires) and local population centers (automobile 
exhaust, residential wood smoke). 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is formed by 
incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon-based 
fuels. Elevated CO levels are common in urban 
areas with significant transportation, residential, 
and industrial emission sources. 

Historically, lead was added to gasoline, 
and elevated lead levels were found in areas 
with large numbers of automobiles. Today, 
elevated lead levels are found only in areas 
immediately next to operating (and historic) 
lead mines and smelters. 

Nitrogen dioxide is formed when hot 
combustion gases are released quickly into the 
ambient atmosphere. Automobiles, fossil-fueled 
electrical generating facilities, and other 
industrial combustion are the major sources of 
nitrogen dioxide emissions. 

Ozone is a secondary pollutant, formed 
under specific atmospheric conditions due to 
ambient levels of other primary emissions (such 
as volatile organic compounds and oxides of 
nitrogen). High ozone concentrations are 
typically found where these primary pollutants 
combine in strong sunlight and under relatively 
stable mixing conditions. 

Sulfur dioxide is formed when 
hydrocarbons (or other materials) containing 
trace levels of sulfur are burned, including coal- 
fired electrical generating facilities, mineral 
products enhancement (such as smelting or 



157 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



roasting of ores), and other industrial 
combustion sources (particularly using diesel 
fuels). 

Particulate matter concentrations are 
expected to be higher near industrial areas, 
towns, and unpaved roads. Inhalable particulate 
matter (PM-10) levels are high in areas with 
significant combustion sources (urban areas, 
industrial facilities, residential wood smoke). 

Air quality regulations consist of the 
National Ambient Air Quality Standards 
(NAAQS) and the Prevention of Significant 
Deterioration (PSD) increments (Table 3-22). 
The NAAQS limit the amount of specific 



pollutants allowed in the atmosphere: carbon 
monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur 
dioxide, and inhalable particulate matter. The 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
recently established fine particulate matter (PM- 
2.5) standards, although it will take some time 
before background measurements and regional 
levels can be determined. Individual state 
standards include these parameters but may also 
be more stringent or include other air 
pollutants. Air pollutant concentrations are 
usually measured as micrograms per cubic 
meter. 



Table 3-22. National Ambient Air Quality Standards and Prevention of Significant Deterioration Increments 
(H9/m3) 


National Ambient Air Quality Standards 


Prevention of Significant 
Deterioration Increments 


Pollutant 


Averaging 
Time (a/) 


Primary 
Standard (b/) 


Secondary 
Standard (c/) 


Class I 


Class II 


Class III 


Carbon monoxide 

Lead 

Nitrogen dioxide 

Ozone 

Sulfur dioxide 

Particulate matter (PM-10) 
Particulate matter (PM-2.5) 


8-hour 
1-hour 

Quarterly 

Annual 

8-hour 
1-hour(d/) 

Annual 

24-hour 

3-hour 

Annual 
24-hour 

Annual 
24-hour 


10,000 
40,000 

1.5 

100 

157 
235 

80 
365 

50 
150 

15 
65 


10,000 
40,000 

1.5 

100 

157 
235 

1,300 

50 
150 

15 
65 


2.5 

2 

5 

25 

4 
8 


25 

20 

91 

512 

17 
30 


50 

40 
182 
700 

34 
60 


Sources: 40 CFR 50.4 through 50.12; 40 CFR 51.166(c) and 52.21(c); 62 FR 38652 and 62 FR 38856 
(July 18, 1997). 

(a/) Annual standards are not to be exceeded; short-term standards may be exceeded once per year. 

(b/) Primary standards are designed to protect public health. 

(c/) Secondary standards are designed to protect public welfare. 

(d/) The 1-hour ozone standards are to be implemented on an interim basis until the 8-hour standards go into full 

effect. 



158 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Areas that consistently violate the NAAQS 
because of human-caused activities are 
classified as "nonattainment" areas and must 
implement a plan to reduce ambient 
concentrations below the maximum pollution 
standards. Under EPAs "Fugitive Dust Policy," 
areas that violate particulate matter standards 
but lack significant industrial or population 
particulate sources to cause such violations arc 
designated "unclassified" (neither attainment 
nor nonattainment). Most rural areas of the 
country have been designated as either 
attainment or unclassified for all pollutants. 

As required by the Federal Land Policy 
Management Act and the Clean Air Act, BLM 
cannot conduct or approve any activity that 
does not comply with all local, state, tribal, or 
federal air quality laws, rules, standards, and 
implementation plans. Therefore, before any 
activity potentially affecting air quality can be 
approved and conducted, project-specific air 
quality assessments must be conducted to 
confirm that all requirements will be met. In 
addition, for activities proposed within 
nonattainment or maintenance areas (previous 
nonattainment areas that are now achieving or 
maintaining the NAAQS), BLM must conduct a 
separate "conformity" analysis and disclose 
potential air quality impacts and show that 
those impacts would meet all requirements. 

The Prevention of Significant Deterioration 
(PSD) program applies in "attainment" and 
"unclassified" areas, whereby areas are 
classified by the additional amounts of nitrogen 
oxide, sulfur dioxide, and PM-10 (inhalable 
particulate matter) degradation that would be 
allowed above a legally defined "baseline" 
level. PSD Class I areas-predominately national 
parks and large wilderness areas-have the 
greatest limitations; virtually any more 
degradation would be significant. Areas where 
moderate, controlled growth can take place 
were designated as PSD Class II. PSD Class III 
areas allow the greatest degree of impacts, 
although no PSD Class III areas have been 
designated to date. 

Congress designated 158 mandatory Class I 
areas on August 7, 1977 (Figure 3-1 ; NPS 



2000). Several Indian tribes have also 
redesignated their lands to PSD Class I. Most 
mandatory PSD Class I areas are in the 
mountainous regions (although some are also at 
lower elevations), and are managed by either 
the Forest Service, National Park Service, or 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A few 
mandatory PSD Class I areas are jointly 
administered by BLM and the Forest Service 
Otherwise, most BLM-administered lands are 
classified PSD Class II. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

No provisions in the regulations would 
directly affect the amount and type of impacts 
to air quality under the four alternatives. 
Impacts to air quality would result from 
secondary effects of the regulations on the 
amount and type of mining activity. 

The most significant impacts to air quality 
under all alternatives would result from direct 
development (extraction, transport, processing), 
mineral products enhancement (refining, 
smelting, roasting, combining), and postmining 
reclamation. Direct impacts could include 
increases in noise, dust, and exhaust generated 
by surface preparation, blasting, extracting, 
crushing, hauling, secondary processing, and 
transportation/loadout activities. Depending on 
the type of material extracted, further 
enhancement processes can generate large 
levels of gaseous and particulate matter 
pollutant emissions, often with relatively tall 
emission stacks, which can degrade air quality 
(pollutant concentrations and secondary impacts 
to visibility and atmospheric deposition) over 
large areas. Finally, as mining diminishes, 
continuing particulate matter impacts can be 
significant due to windblown (or fugitive) dust, 
until adequate postmining reclamation and 
vegetation are established and maintained. 

Impacts from direct development and 
product enhancement could be significant 
(depending on project-specific conditions) but 



159 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Figure 3-1 

Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) 
Class I Areas (Source: NPS 2000) 



edicine Lake 




160 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



would exist only during the period of 
development (life of project). Disturbed-land 
impacts would typically be smaller in scale but 
could continue until successful postmining 
vegetation is established. 

Because BLM can approve only activities 
that comply with all local, state, tribal, and 
federal air quality laws, rules, standards, and 
implementation plans, this analysis assumes 
that impacts to air quality would meet these 
standards. Although the precise air quality 
impact from mining cannot be quantified now, 
these procedures would assure that BLM- 
authorized practices conform to all air quality 
requirements. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Impacts to air quality would continue at 
about current levels and would be generally 
proportional to the amount of activity and 
acreage disturbed. All operations would 
continue to meet air quality standards as 
required under the Clean Air Act, state 
regulations, and the existing 3809 regulations. 

An evolving practice used to facilitate 
metal recovery from sulfide ores is to roast the 
ore to oxidize and remove the sulfur. This 
practice emits sulfur dioxide. As part of a 
general trend, precious metals are being 
extracted from deeper portions of ore deposits, 
which contain higher amounts of sulfide 
minerals. This trend is expected to continue, 
and sulfur dioxide would be an increasing 
component in emissions of many mining 
operations. Although emission levels would 
continue to be limited under permit systems, 
sulfur dioxide emissions from the mining sector 
would increase. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Impacts under State Management would be 
similar to those under No Action. All operations 
would continue to meet air quality standards as 
required under the Clean Air Act and state 
regulations. The projected increase in mineral 
activity by about 5% would result in a 
proportional increase in the emission of air 
pollutants. Although projects would continue to 



be required to meet standards, there would be a 
proportional cumulative increase in overall 
emissions. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Impacts under the Proposed Action would 
be similar to those under No Action. All 
operations would continue to meet air quality 
standards as required under the Clean Air Act 
and state regulations. The projected 5% to 50% 
decrease in mineral activity would result in a 
proportional decrease in the emission of air 
pollutants. In addition, the reclamation 
measures required by the proposed regulations 
would improve the reclamation success rate and 
shorten the amount of time that disturbed areas 
would be left unreclaimed, thus decreasing the 
potential for fugitive dust emissions. Projects 
would continue to be required to meet 
standards, and there would be a proportional 
cumulative decrease in overall emissions. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

The projected decrease of up to 75% in 
overall mineral activity and acreage disturbed 
under Maximum Protection would result in a 
proportional decrease in the emission of air 
pollutants. But offsetting this decrease would be 
the requirement for complete backfilling of all 
open pit mines. This backfilling would create 
more fugitive dust and equipment exhaust 
emissions. On the other hand, restricting the 
mining of high-sulfide ores would decrease the 
potential for sulfur dioxide emissions. In 
summary, projects would continue to be 
required to meet standards, and there would be 
a proportional cumulative decrease in overall 
emissions. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Impacts under the NRC Recommendations 
Alternative would be similar to those under No 
Action. All operations would continue to meet 
air quality standards as required under the 
Clean Air Act and state regulations. The 



161 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



projected decrease in mineral activity by about 
5% would result in a proportional decrease in 
the emission of air pollutants. Projects would 
continue to be required to meet standards, and 
there would be a proportional cumulative 
decrease in overall emissions. 

Water Resources 

Affected Environment 

Regional Hydrogeology 

The United States can be divided into 
several ground water regions, each having 
similar characteristics for the occurrence and 
movement of ground water (Heath 1984). 

Great Basin and Southern Alluvial 
Valleys. This province includes most of Nevada 
and parts of eastern and southern California, 
western Utah, southern Arizona, southwest New 
Mexico, and small areas in southeast Oregon 
and Idaho. This region closely approximates the 
boundaries of the Basin and Range 
Physiographic Province described by Fenneman 
(1931), except in New Mexico. The 
characteristic physiographic features of the 
Basin and Range Province are the north-south 
trending mountain ranges and intervening 
basins filled with alluvial deposits, which can 
be thousands of feet deep. 

This region's ground water occurs in 
aquifers that are not continuous, or regional, 
because of the region's complex faulting and 
the many impermeable mountain ranges that 
often impede ground water flow between 
basins. But some basins are part of multi-basin 
flow systems connected by perennial streams or 
by subsurface flow through the basin fill or 
permeable bedrock that separates the basins. 
Ground water flow through these systems can 
be continuous for hundreds of miles. 

Three main aquifer types collectively 
referred to as the Basin and Range aquifers 
(Planert and Williams 1995) are volcanic-rock 
aquifers, which consist mainly of the following: 



• Tuff, rhyolite, or basalt of Tertiary age. 

• Carbonate-rock aquifers, which are mainly 
limestones and dolomites of Mesozoic and 
Paleozoic age. 

• Basin-fill aquifers, which are mainly 
unconsolidated to semiconsolidated sand and 
gravel of Quaternary and late-Tertiary age. 

Older basin-fill deposits are generally 
deeper, are more consolidated, and can be less 
permeable (conglomerate, sandstone, siltstone, 
mudstone, freshwater limestone, evaporite beds, 
tuff, and interbedded lava flows). Any or all of 
these three aquifer types may be in or underlie a 
basin and constitute three separate sources of 
water. The aquifers, however, may be 
hydraulically connected to form a single source. 
Other rock types within the region (such as 
schists, granites, shales) have low permeability 
and block the flow of ground water. 

Except for small areas that drain to the 
Colorado River, no streams that originate within 
the Basin and Range Province carry water to 
the oceans. Practically all the precipitation that 
falls in the area is returned to the atmosphere by 
evapotranspiration, either directly from the 
soil/alluvium or from the many lakes and playas 
in the lowest points of the basins. 

The centers of many basins consist of flat- 
floored, vegetation-free areas known as playas 
onto which ground water may discharge and on 
which overland runoff may collect during 
intense storms. The water that collects in these 
playas evaporates relatively fast, leaving a thin 
crust deposit of soluble salts that were dissolved 
in the water (Heath 1984). These water bodies 
represent discharge points for the alluvial 
aquifers (Planert and Williams 1995). 

This region is the driest area in the United 
States. Large parts of it are classified as 
semiarid and arid. Annual precipitation in the 
valleys in Nevada and Arizona ranges from 4 
inches in the low- lying valleys to 1 6 inches in 
some of the high valleys. In the mountainous 
areas throughout the region precipitation ranges 
from 1 6 to 35 inches on the highest peaks 
(USGS 1985). 



162 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Figure 3-2 

Groundwater Regions Delineated by Heath (1984) 




Water quality of unconsolidated aquifers in 
the Basin and Range Province varies from basin 
to basin. Water is generally fresh at basin 
margins and on the slopes of alluvial fans. 
Dissolved solids concentrations in these areas 
are generally less than 500 mg/liter. Locally, 
saline water is present near some thermal 
springs and where basin fill aquifers contain 
large amounts of soluble salts, such as aquifers 
in the upper and middle parts of the Humboldt 
River Basin. In discharge or sink areas, such as 
the Carson and Salton sinks and in parts of 
Death Valley, the dissolved solids 
concentrations can exceed that of sea water 
(35,000 mg/liter). 

Ground water beneath playas in small 
closed basins may be brackish, but typically the 



dissolved solids concentrations are not as high 
as those in major terminal sinks. Although 
highly mineralized water is common beneath 
playas, a deeper fresh water system might be 
present in some areas (Planert and Williams 
1995). Water in bedrock units is generally of 
good quality, with some variations depending 
on the rock type and the flow path. 

Western Mountain Ranges. This region 
includes a large extent of mountain ranges in an 
arc from the Sierra Nevada in California, north 
through the Coast Ranges and Cascade 
Mountains in Oregon and Washington, east and 
south through the northern Rocky Mountains in 
northern Idaho and western Montana, and south 
into the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and 
the Wasatch and Uinta mountains in Utah 



163 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



(Figure 3-2). Collectively this area is referred to 
as the Western Mountain Ranges ground water 
region as described by Heath (1984). 

These mountain ranges surround the 
Columbia Plateau regional aquifer, a large area 
of basalt flows. Most of the area is drained by 
the Columbia River, its tributaries, and other 
streams that discharge to the Pacific Ocean. 
Exceptions are streams that flow to closed 
basins in southeast Oregon and northern 
Nevada and to Great Salt Lake in northern Utah 
(Whitehead 1994). 

The region also includes the southern 
Rocky Mountains, which extend from Laramie, 
Wyoming, south through central Colorado into 
the Sangre de Cristo Range in northern New 
Mexico. The mountain ranges generally consist 
of granitic and metamorphic rocks flanked by 
consolidated sedimentary rocks (mainly 
sandstones, shales, and limestone). Narrow 
intermontane valleys are filled with relatively 
thin, coarse, bouldery alluvium eroded from the 
higher slopes. 

The larger valleys (intermontane structural 
basins and down faulted troughs) are filled with 
moderately thick deposits of coarse-grained 
alluvium deposited by streams washing down 
from the mountains (Heath 1984). These 
deposits often form thick alluvial fans along 
mountain fronts and are recharge areas for 
water moving into the basin sediments. 

Intermontane valleys contain 
unconsolidated alluvial deposits consisting 
mainly of sand and gravel layers that can 
supply large amounts of water to wells. Many 
large-yield public supply wells and thousands 
of domestic wells have been drilled in these 
units. These aquifers are generally not on public 
land. 

The mountains in this region are not 
considered principal aquifers. Ground water is 
of limited availability, adequate for domestic 
use and livestock watering. Ground water in 
some of the intermontane valleys is more 
abundant and provides water to wells for large- 
yield irrigation supplies. Some unconsolidated 
aquifers occur along stream channels and 
provide limited amounts of ground water. 
Depths to ground water can range from a few 



feet near streams and in the mountains to 
several hundred feet in the sedimentary deposits 
that fill the intermontane basins. 

Precipitation is high in the mountain ranges 
of both Oregon and Washington. Up to 160 
inches of rain falls annually on the western 
slopes of the Coast Range. Up to 140 inches of 
rain falls in the highest peaks of the Cascade 
Range. In eastern Oregon and Washington, 
rainfall is much less, and some areas receive 
less than 10 inches. 

The mountains in western Montana receive 
a little more than 100 inches per year 
precipitation at die highest elevations. Much of 
the lower mountainous areas receive 12-40 
inches annually. Streamflow is highest from 
May through June because snowmelt increases 
flow during the spring and early summer 
(USGS 1985). 

In Wyoming, precipitation is highest in the 
northwest, averaging about 40 inches per year 
in the highest mountains. Elsewhere in 
Montana's lower mountains and plains, 
precipitation amounts to about 7 inches per 
year. Major streams in the mountains are the 
Snake, Bighorn, and Wind rivers (USGS 1985). 

Surface water is sustained largely by 
snowmelt in the mountainous western two- 
thirds of Colorado. Runoff in the western 
mountains is highest during spring and early 
summer, the result of melting snowpack in the 
Rockies. Mountain precipitation ranges from 12 
to more than 30 inches per year. Intermontane 
valleys receive 8 to 12 inches per year. The 
Colorado River and its tributaries drain most of 
the mountain areas. The Arkansas River and 
Rio Grande and their tributaries drain the 
region's south. 

Colorado Plateaus and Wyoming Basin 
Aquifers. The Colorado Plateaus aquifers 
underlie most of western Colorado, northern 
New Mexico, northeast Arizona, and eastern 
Utah. The Wyoming Basin includes south- 
central Wyoming (Figure 3-2). In general, the 
aquifers in this region consist of moderately to 
well-consolidated sedimentary rocks that are 
permeable and in places can store and transmit 
large amounts of ground water. Most of the 
aquifers consist of sandstone. But limestone, 



164 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



volcanic rocks, and unconsolidated alluvium 
also contain water in a few places (Driscoll 
1986). The region's main sources of ground 
water (sandstones) contain water in both 
primary and secondary porosity in 
interconnected pore spaces and in fractures. The 
main aquifers of this region are the following: 

• Uinta-Animas aquifer. 

• Mesaverde aquifer. 

• Dakota-Glen Canyon aquifer. 

• Coconino-DeChelly aquifer. 

Some locally productive and important 
aquifers throughout the region are not part of 
these units (Robson and Banta 1995). 

Relatively impermeable confining units 
separate each of the main aquifers in the 
Colorado Plateaus. The two thickest confining 
units are the Mancos shale, which underlies the 
Mesaverde aquifer, and the Chinle-Moenkopi 
formations, which underlie the Dakota-Glen 
Canyon aquifer system (Robson and Banta 
1995). 

Unconsolidated deposits are of relatively 
minor importance as aquifers in the region. 
Thin deposits of alluvium that can yield small 
to moderate amounts of ground water occur 
along parts of the valleys of major streams, 
especially next to the mountain ranges in the 
region's north and east (Heath 1984). 

Water levels are generally a few hundred to 
several hundred feet below ground surface, 
except in the alluvial deposits near streams. 
There ground water is generally a few feet to a 
few tens of feet below ground surface. 

Surface water is characterized by sharply 
incised valleys with many ephemeral streams 
that drain the lower mountain ranges. Average 
annual precipitation ranges from about 8 inches 
in the lower valleys to 40 inches in the highest 
mountain crests. Major drainages are the 
Colorado, Yampa, and White rivers in Colorado 
and the Green River in Wyoming. 

Columbia Plateau. The Columbia Plateau, 
in the ground water region referred to as the 
Columbia Lava Plateau (Heath 1984), includes 
eastern Washington and Oregon, southern 
Idaho, and small areas in northeast California 



and northern Nevada (Figure 3-2). The region 
has sequences of lava flows, ranging in 
thickness from 100 feet next to the bordering 
mountain ranges to more than 3,200 feet in 
south-central Washington and southern Idaho 
(Heath 1984). The lava flows form the region's 
main aquifer. 

Unconsolidated-deposit aquifers are 
important sources of high-yield wells in some 
areas and can produce several thousand gallons 
per minute. More commonly, yields are less 
than a 100 to a few hundred gallons per minute. 

Surface water abounds in the region, with 
many rivers developed for irrigation and 
recreation. The area is drained by the Columbia 
and Snake rivers, their tributaries, and other 
streams that discharge to the Pacific Ocean 
(Whitehead 1994). Some drainage is into 
southern Idaho, and perhaps northern Nevada. 

Much of the Columbia Plateau region is in 
the "rain shadow" east of the Cascade Range. 
As a result, precipitation is limited over much 
of the area. Precipitation in the region ranges 
from 7 to 47 inches per year, but much of the 
area receives less than 20 inches per year. Many 
of the smaller streams are dry by summer's end. 

Alaska. Aquifers have been mapped in 
detail only in parts of the widely separated 
population centers-Fairbanks, Juneau, 
Anchorage, and Kenai-Soldotna . All water- 
yielding formations are grouped into two main 
aquifers-unconsolidated alluvium and glacial 
outwash deposits, and bedrock. Nearly all 
ground water development has been in the 
unconsolidated aquifers. Only about 1% of the 
water has been derived from bedrock aquifers. 

A data base adequate to describe areal 
variations in the chemical quality of ground 
water exists only for a few places, mainly near 
population centers. Most of the unconsolidated 
aquifers contain ground water of good quality, 
having less than 400 mg/1 of dissolved solids. 
But saline ground water is present in many of 
the subpermafrost aquifers in river basins in the 
central part of the state, for example, in the 
Copper River Basin. Water quality is affected 
by the marine sedimentary rocks that underlie 
much of the basin. Saline waters are also found 
in the coastal areas, having dissolved solids 



165 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



concentrations of up to 6,400 mg/1 (USGS 
1988). 

From the standpoint of ground water 
availability and well yields, Alaska is divided 
into three zones. In the zone of continuous 
permafrost, ground water occurs beneath the 
permafrost and also in small, isolated, thawed 
zones that penetrate the permafrost beneath 
large lakes and deep holes in the channels of 
streams. In the zone of discontinuous 
permafrost, ground water occurs below the 
permafrost and in sand and gravel deposits that 
underlie the channels and floodplains of major 
streams. Water in this zone, contained in silt, 
clay, glacial till, and other fine-grained deposits, 
is usually frozen. In the zone not affected by 
permafrost, which includes the Aleutian Islands, 
the western part of the Alaska Peninsula, and 
the southern and southeast coastal areas, ground 
water occurs both in the bedrock and in the 
relatively continuous layer of unconsolidated 
deposits that mantle the bedrock (Heath 1984). 

Recharge of aquifers occurs only when the 
ground is thawed in the areas not underlain by 
permafrost. This period lasts only from June 
through September. Because the ground is 
frozen even in nonpermafrost areas, relatively 
little recharge occurs in interstream areas by 
infiltration of water across the unsaturated zone. 
Instead, most recharge occurs through the 
channels of streams as they cross alluvial fans 
or flow in alluvial fill valleys. Infiltration rates 
can be high in some of the coarser alluvial 
sediments (Heath 1984). 

Impact of Mineral Activity on 
Water Resources 

Exploration for mineral deposits involves 
drilling; developing shafts, inclines, or adits 
into the ore deposit; and digging test pits or 
trenches. Drill holes from exploration can affect 
water resources. If the drill hole is not plugged 
or is improperly plugged, water from different 
aquifers can mix. This mixing can degrade the 
water quality of all or several aquifers. 



Hydrologic investigations are sometimes 
part of an advanced exploration phase, 
requiring the drilling of water wells for aquifer 
tests to evaluate the expected aquifer zones or 
to evaluate aquifer characteristics. Monitoring 
wells may be installed to monitor ground water 
levels before mining. Determining water quality 
before mining is often part of the final phase of 
exploration and ore delineation. 

These activities normally would not 
seriously affect water resources except in rare 
cases. Large amounts of water are sometimes 
pumped during the late exploration phase to test 
aquifers or to remove water from development 
workings. Discharge of the pumped water can 
be of concern if the water quality is poor. 
Pumped water is sometimes reinjected or 
infiltrated back into the ground using ponds. 
The disposal water can contain elevated levels 
of soluble salts, trace metals, and chlorides. 

Mining can degrade ground and surface 
water quality and quantity in several ways. 
Each mine has features such as extraction areas 
and mill facilities that can affect water 
resources. 

• Mineral extraction areas or pits for removing 
mineral material for processing. These 
extraction areas affect water resources 
through dewatering, creation of pit lakes, 
aquifer disturbance, and physical removal or 
rerouting of water courses. Ground water 
quantity is affected by the removal of ground 
and surface water through dewatering. 

• Waste material storage in either tailings 
impoundments or waste rock dumps where 
high- volume waste material is placed. Waste 
materials affect water resources though acid 
rock drainage, spills or leaking of ponds, and 
other leaching of heavy metals. 

• Chemical or physical processing plants that 
extract or concentrate the desirable mineral 
for refinement or use. These plants include 
heap leach facilities, placer gold separators, 
and flotation plants. Water resources are 
affected through chemical spills and leachates 
from processed material. 



166 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Ancillary facilities such as access roads, 
powerlines, lab buildings, maintenance sheds, 
and other facilities and features needed for 
mining. Water resources are affected mostly 
through erosion and increasing sediment 
loading during runoff events. 

Dewatering. Required when mining below 
the water table, dewatering is the process by 
which several wells are installed around the pit 
area and pumped until the water table is 
lowered below the operating mine pit floor. 
Mineralization usually occurs in areas of 
significant faulting and fracturing of the rock 
strata. As a result, mining sometimes intercepts 
highly permeable zones, with resulting high 
inflows of water into the excavation area. 
Pumping is typically in the deeper zones in the 
bedrock. Where there is a hydraulic connection 
(no impermeable geologic unit separating the 
shallow aquifer and the deeper aquifer) between 
the overlying alluvium and the mined bedrock 
aquifer, pumping can lower water levels in the 
overlying alluvial aquifer as well, near the 
mine. 

The shallow aquifer in the area surrounding 
the mine does not always drop. Often an 
impermeable or semipermeable layer of clay or 
silt separates the shallow alluvial and bedrock 
aquifers. In the Humboldt River Basin in 
northern Nevada, for example, many of the 
shallow alluvial aquifers have not declined at 
the same rate as water levels in the bedrock 
aquifers, or water levels have remained fairly 
constant (Maurer and others 1996). Whether 
shallow aquifers are affected or not during 
dewatering depends on geologic factors and 
hydraulic characteristics of the shallow aquifer 
and the presence or absence of confining layers. 

The effects of dewatering may not be 
evident for several years until the cone of 
depression deepens and expands beyond the 
mine area. In the first stages of dewatering, the 
cone of depression is limited to the mine area. 
As the pit is deepened and pumping continues 
and the rate increases, the extent and magnitude 
of drawdown increases. Sometimes the cone of 
depression expands to a radius of several miles 
around the mine and deepens several hundred 



feet near the mine. The amount of decline and 
extent of the cone of depression depends on the 
pumping rate and the physical and hydraulic 
characteristics of the aquifers intercepted by 
mining. 

The cone of depression may not always be 
circular. Lateral variations in hydraulic 
conductivity (permeability) can cause the cone 
of depression to elongate. Or the cone of 
depression could extend further in one direction 
than another, in response to ground water 
barriers. In strata where transmissivities are 
low, the cone of depression would be deep but 
limited in extent. Where transmissivities are 
high, the cone of depression could be 
widespread but would typically be shallow. The 
cone of depression continues to expand for 
several months or years even after pumping 
ceases. 

Discharge water from dewatering is 
pumped into holding reservoirs, injected into 
aquifers, or discharged into existing streams. 
Regulated by permits issued by the state, these 
discharges must meet state National Pollutant 
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit 
standards. In the Humboldt River Basin, for 
example, any discharge water pumped into the 
Humboldt River would be under an NPDES 
permit, s 

Dewatering requires high pumping rates. 
Useful examples of pumping rates required for 
dewatering can be found at the large open pit 
gold mines in operation in northern Nevada. 
For example, total pumpage at the Gold Quarry 
and Post-Betze Mines, the two largest mines 
along the Carlin Trend, (north of Elko, Nevada) 
was 100,000 acre-feet in 1993. Pumpage was 
projected to increase by another 30% by 2000 
and then decrease in later years ( Maurer and 
others 1996). Pumping for dewatering will 
continue for several years at these mines. At the 
Lone Tree Mine, 60 miles southwest of the 
Gold Quarry/Betze Mines, initial pumping rates 
of 10,000 gallons per minute (gpm) were used, 
increasing to 25,000 to 30,000 gpm in 1994-95. 
Pumping rates are expected to increase to a 
maximum range of 75,000 gpm just before the 
end of dewatering in 2006 (BLM 1995b). 



167 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 
studied ground water withdrawals in the 
Humboldt River Basin, and predicted future 
ground water declines due to dewatering at 
mines in 34 hydrographic areas that make up 
the Humboldt River Basin (Crompton 1995). 
USGS researchers used a 5-year period, 1995- 
2000, as the time frame for estimating impacts. 
These initial assessments can be useful for 
evaluating cumulative impacts of mining. 

The USGS categorized potential impacts by 
distance from a mine, using local distance (less 
than 2 miles), areal distance (2 to 6 miles), and 
regional distance (more than 6 miles). The 
following estimated drawdown conditions 
summarize the study. 

At the local distance water level 
drawdowns near at least one mine in each of 1 1 
hydrographic areas of the basin may reach a 
maximum drawdown of 100 feet or greater 
from 1 995 to 2000. In eight other hydrographic 
areas, drawdowns may potentially reach a 
maximum of about 20 feet or greater but 
probably less than 100 feet (Crompton 1995). 
Some of the local drawdowns have been 
substantial. For example, at the Post-Betze 
Mine (as of 1994), water levels declined more 
than 800 feet beneath an area of about 3 mi2 
near the mine, more than 1 00 feet beneath 
about 24 mi2, and more than 10 feet beneath 
about 40 mi2 (Maurer and others 1996). 

At the areal distance the maximum 
predicted drawdown of 100 feet or greater 
decreases to 5 hydrographic areas, and 10 
hydrographic areas could have drawdowns of 
20 feet or greater, but probably less than 100 
feet (Crompton 1995). 

At the regional distance the maximum 
predicted drawdown of 100 feet or greater 
decreases to only one hydrographic area, and 
three other hydrographic areas are predicted to 
have drawdowns of about 20 feet or greater but 
probably less than 100 feet (Crompton, 1995). 

The greatest impacts involving water level 
declines are thus limited to the local area near a 
mine. But water level impacts are seen across a 
wide area encompassing several hydrographic 
areas. The drawdown impacts decrease with 
increasing distance from the mined area. 



Cumulatively, the long-term impacts of 
dewatering will expand beyond the local areas, 
so that beyond the 2-mile radius of the mine, 
drawdowns will become deeper. But predicting 
the ultimate drawdown at single mines or 
cumulatively is uncertain because geologic 
factors can affect the rate of expansion and the 
ultimate size of the cone of depression, even if 
the pumping rate stays constant. Cumulatively, 
mine dewatering can bring about changes in 
streamflow, springs, fish and wildlife habitat, 
and agricultural uses. In the Humboldt River 
Basin, Crompton (1995) estimated that six 
hydrographic areas had a high potential for 
change due to mine dewatering from 1995 to 
2000. 

Effects on Streamflow. Dewatering of 
aquifers can reduce streamflow either by 
lowering shallow ground water in alluvial 
channels along streams or by lowering water 
levels in deeper aquifers that are hydraulically 
connected to the stream. Dewatering the 
alluvium reduces streamflow by eliminating the 
source of water contributing to streamflow, or 
by causing streamflow to drain through the 
stream bottom because of the disconnection 
between the aquifer and the stream. 

This drainage can be substantial if the 
hydraulic conductivity of the streambed is high 
and can result in the stream going dry. But in 
many cases either the streambed has low 
hydraulic conductivity or a confining clay layer 
separates the bedrock aquifer and the stream. In 
these situations, streamflow may not be 
affected, or the decrease in streamflow could be 
minimal because the upper aquifer is not 
affected by the dewatering. 

Streamflow can also be affected when 
discharge from dewatering wells flows directly 
into an existing stream. Or streamflow can be 
affected by ground water discharge into the 
stream from shallow alluvial aquifers that 
convey the pumped water from the dewatering 
discharge area to the stream. Bank storage from 
this mechanism can slowly release ground 
water into the stream, augmenting the 
streamflow when streamflow decreases due to 
climatic factors. Large increases in streamflow 
from this source can disturb riparian habitat 



168 



Chapter ] — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



along the stream banks, inundating the riparian 
vegetation or destroying it by rapidly flowing 
water under high flow conditions. Fish and 
certain birds that use riparian habitat could be 
harmed by streamflow changes. 

Effects on Springs. Dewatering does not 
always result in springs drying up or reduced 
flows. Because many springs are in 
mountainous areas and are the result of 
perched, shallow- flow systems that are not 
connected to the regional aquifer system, some 
springs are unaffected by lowered ground water 
levels caused by dewatering (Crompton 1995). 
When springs are affected, most of the effects 
are observed near the mine and the dewatering 
well field. 

Effects on springs can occur several miles 
away if a spring is supplied by die shallow flow 
system that is affected by the dewatering. If 
there is no hydraulic connection between the 
deep aquifer that is denatured and the overlying 
shallow aquifer, springs may not be affected at 
all. Or the decrease in flow could be minimal. 

Loss of springflow can also affect wildlife 
that depend on the water source, and in the case 
of large springs, riparian habitat may be 
destroyed. 

Effects on Shallow Ground Water. 
Shallow ground water is expressed by the 
presence of grasses and shrubs. Generally, 
water levels less than 15 feet below the ground 
surface are considered to be in the shallow 
ground water system (Crompton 1995). 

Dewatering effects are more pronounced 
near mines and typically decrease with 
increasing distance from mines. Dewatering 
sometimes affects shallow ground water 
systems within a radius of a few miles around 
the mine. But in the Humboldt River Basin 
water levels in the shallow basin-fill aquifer 
have not declined at the same rate as in the 
deeper bedrock aquifer. In some cases, water 
levels in the shallow aquifer do not changed at 
all or only slightly change, for example in the 
area near the Gold Quarry and Post-Betze 
mines in Nevada's Carlin Trend (Maurer and 
others 1996 



Effects on Agricultural Irrigation. 

Drawdown from agricultural irrigation wells 
can be significant, ranging to more than 80 feet 
depending on pumping rates and aquifer 
conditions. As of 1993, agriculture was the 
largest water use in the Humboldt River Basin. 
The effects of mine dewatering could lower 
ground water levels and increase the costs of 
pumping irrigation water or require the 
deepening of wells, which could render 
irrigation economically infeasible (Crompton 
1995). 

Pit Lakes. When mining ceases in an open 
pit being mined below the water table, 
dewatering is no longer required, and pumps 
are turned off. Ground water then begins to 
flow back toward the mine, driven by the 
hydraulic gradient of the lowered water level at 
the mine. Several decades may pass before the 
ground water system approximates premining 
conditions. As the pit fills, mineral constituents 
will be leached and transported into the pit with 
the ground water flow. The ultimate 
composition of pit lake water quality is 
variable, depending on the following: 

• Host rock for the ore. 

• Type of ore deposit. 

• Water type. 

• Rates of inflow. 

• Climatic conditions. 

• Reactions between the pit wall and ground 
water. 

Acidic water often results. 

Pit lakes may become alkaline in desert 
environments due to the high 
evapoconcentration and the low levels of 
sulfides. Climatic conditions are an important 
consideration in estimating pit lake water 
quality. Evapoconcentration in desert 
environments can change the chemistry of 
shallow pit lakes. Geothermal water flowing 
into the pit can cause stratification and 
overturning of the lake. Reaction with the wall 
rock is an important factor in determining pit 
lake water quality (Macdonald and others 
1994). 



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Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Ground water outside the pit may be 
affected if the regional hydraulic gradient 
moves water through the pit and away from the 
mine. Fluctuations of the water level in the pit 
can change the direction of flow from or into 
the pit. 

Experience with precious metal pit lakes is 
limited, especially with deep pits that have only 
recently been developed. Most of the deep open 
pit mines in Nevada are still in production and 
in the process of dewatering (Macdonald and 
others 1994). Eight pits lakes are now on public 
lands in Nevada. Pit lakes also form in copper 
and uranium mining. Water in open pit uranium 
mine lakes is generally unfit for any use 
(Macdonald and others 1994). 

Ground water quality surrounding many pit 
lakes is not expected to be affected for several 
years or decades after pumping stops. The time 
required for possible impacts to the surrounding 
ground water quality would vary, depending on 
the hydrology at the mine site. Normally, 
ground water flows into the pit for several years 
after mining. Sometimes decades are needed for 
the ground water system to reach pre-mining or 
steady-state conditions. Contaminants do not 
flow out of the mine pit lake until the 
hydrologic regime reaches steady state 
(equilibrium with the flow system). Once 
steady-state conditions are achieved, ground 
water might begin to flow out of the mine pit in 
the direction of the regional hydraulic gradient. 
At some mines, flow-through conditions can 
occur early after pumping stops, and the pit is 
only partially refilled. 

Predictions of pit water quality apply 
geochemical models that use data from 
laboratory tests of rock content, acid-generating 
capacity, and hydrologic monitoring data. The 
following important factors affect water quality 
in mine pit lakes: 

• Pyrite oxidation and acid generation in the pit 
walls. 

• Leaching of metals from wall rock. 

• Chemical reactions and evaporative 
concentration in the water. 

• Chemical and oxygen distribution in the final 
lake. 



Water quality in pit lakes changes during 
filling due to the interaction of pit lake water 
with different zones of alteration in the pit 
walls. 

Some pit lakes are close to neutral in pH 
and do not turn acidic. At the Nickel Plate Pit (a 
gold deposit) near Hedly, British Columbia, for 
example, the pH of the pit lake is 7.8-8, and the 
lake has not turned acidic (Macdonald and 
others 1994). At perhaps the largest expected pit 
lake in North America, the Betze Pit in northern 
Nevada, which is an active mine, the final pit 
water quality is not expected to be acidic 
(Drever 1991). 

Bass planted years ago in the Cortez Mine 
pit lake in Nevada continue to exist. The fish 
have no apparent secondary food source, 
suggesting that the pit lake has enough primary 
productivity for a food chain that supports the 
fish (Macdonald and others 1994). But this pit 
lake is relatively shallow (about 80 feet deep), 
and conditions differ from deeper pits where 
lakes will be about 1,000 feet deep. 

Several other pit lakes in Nevada are 
predicted to have water in the neutral range of 
pH or slightly alkaline. If lakes are alkaline, 
water quality problems can also develop with 
elevated levels of contaminants such as arsenic, 
selenium, molybdenum, vanadium, and nickel. 

Attenuation processes can sometimes 
reduce the contaminants migrating out of the 
pit. Some studies have shown that attenuation is 
an important process in reducing concentrations 
of contaminant plumes but may not always be 
effective in attenuating all of the contaminants. 
At the Lone Tree Mine, for example, seepage 
from the pit lake into the surrounding aquifers 
is not expected to affect ground water quality 
because of expected attenuation of the 
contaminants (BLM 1995b). 

Mine pits high in sulfide rock tend to have 
poor quality water. The pH may be low (acidic) 
or high (alkaline), depending on the amount of 
acid-neutralizing and acid-generating capacity 
of the sulfide rocks. Oxidized mineral zones 
that contain appreciable amounts of carbonate 
rock are likely to produce near-neutral pH water 
quality (near pH 7.0). Because deeper mines are 
more likely to encounter sulfide minerals, the 



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Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



potential for poor water quality in pit lakes in 
these deposits is increased. 

Water quality in pit lakes can be a transient 
phenomenon, especially in deep pits. Water 
inflows in the early stages of refilling can 
become acidic because of the flow through of 
sulfide minerals that have oxidized in the pit 
walls. But as the pit fills, water can encounter 
acid-neutralizing rock that makes the pH more 
neutral if the rock has enough neutralizing 
capacity (Miller and others 1996). 

Impacts to ground water down gradient 
from a mine depend on whether the pit lake is 
in a flow- through system or a terminal flow 
system. In a flow-through system, ground water 
flows into the mine pit and passes out of the pit, 
migrating down gradient away from the pit 
lake. In a terminal flow system, the pit captures 
all ground water that flows within a certain 
distance of the pit, but water does not pass 
through the pit. Pit lakes can have terminal flow 
during filling but then change to flow-through 
conditions after the pit lake fills to the level of 
premining hydrologic conditions. 

Backfilling of mine pits is one method of 
reclamation for open pit mining. But backfilling 
may not always be the preferred option for 
reclamation where the backfill will be saturated 
after mine refilling. The resulting water quality 
might become further degraded because of the 
leaching of metals and other constituents from 
the broken and crushed rock in the backfilled 
material. 

Managing the backfilled material (i.e. 
segregating rock types and placing acid-forming 
rock types within areas of acid-buffering rock) 
is important in any attempt to backfill a pit. A 
full understanding of the regional ground water 
flow system in mined areas is important so that 
the ground water flow through closed pits can 
be more accurately estimated. In addition, 
backfilling requires an understanding of 
potential water-rock interactions to predict 
water quality and pH in the backfilled pit after 
filling. Whether the water turns acidic is not the 
only concern. Alkaline conditions can also 
create water quality problems, with elevated 
levels of arsenic, molybdenum, uranium, 
vanadium, manganese, and nickel. 



Aquifer Disturbance. Mineral exploration 
and development can disturb aquifers, but most 
of the impacts occur during the developing of 
extraction areas. Open pit and to some extent 
strip mining removes the permeable geologic 
strata that may serve as aquifers. Large sections 
of aquifers can be removed during either open 
pit or strip mining. Geologic materials can be 
replaced in the excavation as backfilling 
material, but the geologic materials would not 
be the same as in the original aquifer. 

Ground water might not flow through these 
materials as readily as before, or might flow 
more easily, depending on the material's 
hydraulic characteristics. As a result, backfilling 
could disrupt the local ground water flow 
system and alter ground water flow paths on a 
local level, possibly changing the ground water 
regime in the mined area. 

Physical Disturbance of Surface 
Hydrological Systems. Impacts to surface 
water resources could include the following: 

• Changes in water quality. 

• Disruptions to the ground water flow system 

supporting riparian vegetation. 

• Changes to stream channel geometry. 

Surface water courses are diverted from 
their historic channels and rerouted around the 
mine if they cross the proposed mine area. 
These channels might be replaced after mining 
is completed through reclamation. But these 
channels usually do not have the same 
morphology as the original channel or stream. 

The floodplain deposits through which the 
stream channel passes could affect streamflow 
characteristics, increasing erosion and changing 
the frequency and duration of floods. 
Disrupting the stream channel could destroy the 
surface water-ground water interaction, harming 
riparian vegetation. 

Acid Rock Drainage. Acid rock drainage 
(ARD) results from weathering reactions 
between sulfide-bearing rocks and air and water 
to generate sulfuric acid. Acid rock drainage is 
characterized by low pH; increasing acidity; 
and elevated heavy metals, sulfate, and total 
dissolved solids in drainage waters emanating 



171 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



from the sulfide rock source. Acid rock 
drainage can affect water by lowering pH, 
dissolving minerals, and releasing toxic metal 
cations (e.g. lead, copper, silver, manganese, 
cadmium, iron, and zinc). The mobility of 
heavy metals is also increased in a low pH 
environment, which allows their transport by 
ground or surface water. Acidic conditions can 
be generated in underground mines or in pit 
lakes formed after open pit mining has ceased. 

Acid generation at mines largely results 
from oxidation of metallic sulfides. The major 
metallic sulfide of concern is iron sulfide 
(FeS2), or pyrite. Other metal sulfides can also 
contribute to acid generation: galena (lead 
sulfide), sphalerite (zinc sulfide), and 
chalcopyrite (iron copper sulfide) (EPA 1997). 

Pyrite oxidation is a self-maintaining 
mechanism. The rate increases with lower pH, 
which results in the oxidation of more pyrite, 
generating more oxidation agents, which further 
lower the pH, continuing the cycle. This 
process can originate from mine pit walls, mine 
shafts, tunnels, or waste dumps, and can 
theoretically continue until all the available 
sulfide has been oxidized. This process can 
possibly take centuries or millennia to run to 
completion (Bird 1993). The reaction process 
can be slowed significantly by cutting off the 
water or oxygen supply to the sulfide-bearing 
minerals. 

The oxidation process that generates 
sulfuric acid normally progresses slowly, but 
the presence of bacteria can accelerate the 
process. Biological oxidation enhanced by 
Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and other organisms 
can increase the oxidation rate by 50 to 1 ,000 
times or more. The time required for acidic 
conditions to develop depends on the amount 
and character of the sulfides present, and the 
alkali minerals available for neutralization (EPA 
1996). 

The ability of a rock sample to generate net 
acidity is a function of the relative content of 
acid- generating and acid-consuming minerals 
and their size, shape, and distribution 
throughout the deposit. Typical sediment-hosted 
precious metal deposits in Nevada contain acid- 
generating and acid-consuming minerals. The 



balance between the two determines the extent 
to which rock- water interaction produces acidic 
water (Bird 1993). 

Recorded pH values from acid rock 
drainage are as low as less than -1.0 (Iron 
Mountain, CA), but acid rock drainage rarely 
attains levels below a pH of about 2.0 and 
typically is in the range of 2.0-4.0 (Bird 1993). 

No easy or inexpensive solutions exist to 
acid rock drainage. Two main approaches to 
addressing acid generation are (1) avoiding 
mining deposits with high acid-generating 
potential and (2) isolating or otherwise special 
handling wastes with acid-generating potential. 

Physical, chemical, and biological controls 
can be used to prevent, minimize, and treat acid 
rock drainage. The best environmental controls 
and the least expensive in the long run are 
waste management practices that focus on 
prevention rather than treatment. 

Acid rock drainage can be treated using two 
strategies: (1) active chemical treatment of acid 
by- products or (2) elimination of acid- 
generating reactions (SME 1998). For waste 
piles, the use of covers to isolate the wastes 
from precipitation and to reduce the interaction 
of oxygen with pyritic mining wastes is an 
effective means of slowing the generation of 
acidic drainage from the waste pile. But this 
method may not be totally successful, and 
active treatment may still be needed. 

For underground mines, bulkhead seals 
have been used to minimize oxygen flow into 
mine workings. Preventing oxygen from 
contacting sulfide mineralization inside the 
mine workings can greatly reduce the amount 
of acid and sulfate products generated (SME 
1998). Fractures and fault zones within 
underground mines can also be grouted to 
reduce the following: 

• The contact of oxygen and water with sulfide 
mineralization and thus acid generation. 

• The volume of water in the mine. 

• The chance for leakage through fractures or 
around the bulkhead. 

Although testing methods used to predict 
acid rock drainage have improved in recent 



172 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



years, the results are often uncertain, and mines 
can sometimes develop unpredicted acid rock 
drainage after only a few years. 

Tests to predict acid-generating potential 
may be static or kinetic. Static tests are 
conducted quickly and are based on 
determining the balance between acid 
generation and acid neutralization. Kinetic tests 
mimic weathering processes in the environment 
at an accelerated rate. 

Kinetic tests should be conducted for at 
least 20 weeks and might be required for much 
longer. A year or more in some cases is required 
to get reliable results. But kinetic tests don't 
consider the accelerated reaction rates due to 
catalyzing bacteria and can under predict acid 
generation. Mineralogy and other factors 
affecting the potential for acid rock drainage 
vary from site to site and can result in 
predictions that greatly differ from what takes 
place at the mine. 

Tailings Impoundments. Tailings 
impoundments have been used at ore mills in 
the United States since the early 1900s. In 
recent years these impoundments have become 
increasingly important in mining and may 
account for as much as 20% of the cost of a 
mine or mill project (EPA 1985). Tailings 
impoundments do the following: 

• Retain water so it can be used in the mill 
flotation circuits and other processes. 

• Serve as equalization basins, which help in 
the process control of wastewater treatment 
and reagent addition control. 

• Protect the quality of surface waters by 
preventing the release of suspended sediment 
and dissolved chemicals. 

Gold tailings impoundments receive 
cyanidation process wastes; have high 
concentrations of cyanide, arsenic, cadmium, 
lead, mercury, and selenium; and are typically 
alkaline. The strongest indicators of the leakage 
of tailings ponds into ground water are the 
presence of constituents added during 
beneficiation: chloride and cyanide. Tailings 
impoundments can leak contaminants into 
ground and surface waters. 



Potential effects of cyanide on water 
resources are related to cyanide's mobility in 
water. An EPA study of cyanide showed that 
some forms are mobile whereas others are less 
so. Transport mechanisms depend on the type 
of cyanide and the media through which it 
travels. High pH and low clay content increase 
cyanide mobility in ground water systems (EPA 
1985). 

Operations dispose of more than half of all 
mine tailings in tailings impoundments, whose 
use is the main method by which tailings are 
disposed and wastewater is treated. In addition, 
mining and mineral processing operations 
typically use settling ponds. The size and 
design of tailings ponds vary by industry 
segment and mine location. Some copper 
tailings ponds in the Southwest cover 600 to 
almost 1,000 acres, and one exceeds 4,900 
acres (EPA 1985). A Bureau of Mines study in 
1981 surveyed 145 tailings ponds in the copper, 
lead, zinc, gold, silver, and phosphate 
industries. The average size of these tailings 
ponds is about 500 acres (EPA 1985). 

Possible impacts to water resources from 
tailings ponds include the following: 

• Spills due to failure of the tailing 
impoundment berm. 

• Surface water contamination from runoff. 

• Seepage of leachate into the ground water. 

Leachates that may percolate downward 
into ground water, such as by leaking from a 
tailings impoundment, are not specifically 
regulated by the Clean Water Act (CWA) 
(because the act excluded ground water) except 
where this water may contaminate surface water 
by emerging at springs and seeps (National 
Research Council 1979). 

In two cases (1979 and 1994), however, the 
courts have interpreted the CWA broadly and 
held that tributary ground water is protected 
(Cavanaugh 1998). In an earlier case (1977), 
the court held that ground water was not 
covered under the CWA. Tributary ground 
water is ground water that is hydraulically 
connected to surface water. Thus, ground water 
in unconsolidated alluvium (sand and gravel) or 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



any aquifer that is hydraulically connected via 
leakage between an upper aquifer and a lower 
aquifer may be interpreted as being tributary 
water. 

Such interpretations are left to the courts. 
(See discussion of tributary water in Colorado 
Dept. of Natural Resources v. South Western 
Colorado Water Conservation Dist., 671 P.2d 
1294, 1300 n. 2 (Colo. 1983).) Case law on this 
issue is still evolving, and without legislative 
change to the CWA, the courts will address the 
issue on a case-by-case basis. 

Impacts can result from leakage of tailings 
ponds used in several mining sectors. EPA 
studied tailings disposal at eight mines for 
copper, gold, lead, uranium, and phosphate. 
Ground and surface water monitoring at each 
site found evidence of some leakage of solute at 
most sites. But constituents did not reach 
concentrations high enough to be of concern, 
and no evidence was found that the plumes 
migrated over long distances (EPA 1985). 

Revegetation of tailings is inherently 
difficult, regardless of the ore mined, because 
tailings are not amenable to supporting higher 
plants. Water is an extremely limiting factor in 
revegetation tailings. Where the precipitation 
exceeds 20 inches, revegetation problems are 
simplified. But reclamation in the arid West and 
at high altitudes or high latitudes requires 
special techniques and comparatively greater 
effort (National Research Council 1 979). 

Physical and Chemical Processing Plants. 
A variety of physical and chemical processes 
increase the concentration of valuable metal. 
Operations dispose of the waste material either 
in waste rock dumps or tailing impoundments. 

Spills. Accidental spills of chemicals used 
in metal extraction and processing could 
contaminate surface and ground water. 

Leachate. Many mines use heap leaching of 
gold ores to extract minerals from low-grade 
deposits. For gold and silver heap leach 
operations, the heap is typically leached with a 
sodium cyanide solution. Conventional heap 
leach pads are generally smooth, relatively flat 
surfaces that are gently sloped in one or two 
directions to direct the flow of leachate into 



collection ditches along the pad margins (Buck 
and Bayer 1989). 

Heap leach facilities have leak detection 
features and sometimes use double liners, often 
a clay liner and a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 
liner. Berms normally surround the facilities to 
ensure that leachate solutions do not escape into 
the environment should a heap leach pad fail. 

Heap leaching processes present a different 
set of possible effects to water resources than 
do mining operations. Seepage of leaching 
chemicals (e.g. cyanide in base metal flotation 
and in gold extraction, sodium hydroxide and 
organic flotation compounds) from heap leach 
pads or from spills can contaminate ground 
water. In some hydrologic regions ground water 
levels are several hundred feet below the 
surface, and contaminants can greatly weaken 
before a leak reaches the water table. In many 
alluvial environments operations must pay 
special attention to monitoring and preventing 
the contamination of shallow ground water. 

A major hydrologic concern consists of 
siting heap leach facilities in recharge zones. 
Some leaching facilities, especially those in the 
Basin and Range Province, are either in 
mountainous areas or on alluvial fans along the 
margins of mountain ranges. These alluvial fans 
are areas of aquifer recharge (Buck and Bayer 
1989). Location of heap leach pads in areas of 
shallow ground water increases the potential for 
ground water contamination should a liner leak 
or the pad itself fail. 

Except for system leaks and controlled 
discharges, spills of cyanide heap leach 
solutions most often result from the inability of 
the heap leach system to contain runoff. 
Interception of precipitation and surface runoff 
by impoundments containing cyanide decrease 
cyanide concentrations in the impounded 
solutions. A leach solution spill could have 
disastrous to inconsequential impacts. The 
effects of a spill depend on many factors, 
including the type of media into which the spill 
infiltrates, concentration, pH of the solution, 
ambient air temperature, and volume and 
chemistry of the receiving waters (Stanton and 
others 1986). 



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Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Cyanide is a highly reactive and relatively 
short-lived contaminant (Stanton and others 
1986). Several processes are potentially 
significant in the natural degradation or 
depletion of cyanide in effluents from many 
gold processing operations: volatilization, 
oxidation, biodegradation, photodecomposition, 
and cyanide-thiocyanate reactions (Stanton and 
others 1986). 

Overall, cyanide can cause three major 
types of impacts. 

• Cyanide-containing ponds and ditches can 
present an acute hazard to wildlife and birds. 
(Tailings ponds present similar hazards but 
less often because of lower cyanide 
concentrations.) 

• Spills of cyanide leaching solutions can enter 
surface water courses, killing fish and 
contaminating drinking water sources. Or 
leaching solutions can enter ground water 
systems and contaminate water supply wells 
or discharge contaminated ground water into 
surface water where streams depend on 
ground water discharge. 

• Cyanide in active heap leaching facilities, 
ponds, and mining wastes may reach water 
sources through leaks from leach pads or 
percolation and runoff from waste piles (EPA 
1997). 



and related compounds can kill or impair 
aquatic life (Moran 1998). 

Sediments. The impacts from placer mining 
and general surface disturbance from 
exploration and mining include increased 
organic loading in the stream system from the 
introducing of overburden sediments or 
inundating of organic-rich soils. This increase 
may do the following: 

• Produce anaerobic conditions in the sediment. 

• Decrease dissolved-oxygen levels in the 
water. 

• Increase color, iron, tannin, lignin, organic 
carbon, nutrients, dissolved solids, and 
chemical or biological oxygen demand. 

Regulatory Environment. The Clean 
Water Act (CWA) (1977) and the Safe Drinking 
Water Act (1974, amended in 1986 and 1996) 
mandate that all states adopt water quality 
standards, which set forth designated uses of 
waters within their states and numeric criteria to 
protect those uses. 

Section 304(a) of the CWA requires the 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
to publish and periodically update ambient 
water quality criteria. These criteria are to 
accurately reflect the latest scientific knowledge 
on the following: 



In addition to other mining contaminants 
such as acid drainage and toxic concentrations 
of metals and some nonmetals, cyanide 
contamination can significantly harm aquatic 
life. Cyanide is toxic in its free forms, hydrogen 
cyanide (HCN), and the cyanide ion (CN-), and 
as breakdown compounds such as cyanates, 
thiocyanates, chloroamines, cyanogen chloride, 
and metal-cyanide complexes. No contaminant 
level criteria have been established for cyanide- 
related compounds (Moran 1998). 

Although free cyanide does not persist in 
the natural environment and does not 
bioaccumulate through the food chain, some of 
the breakdown complexes do bioaccumulate, 
and some are especially toxic to fish. 
Consequently, both short- and long-term 
exposure to excessive concentrations of cyanide 



• Kind and extent of all identifiable effects on 
health and welfare, including plankton, fish, 
shellfish, wildlife, plant life, shorelines, 
beaches, aesthetics, and recreation that may 
be expected from the presence of pollutants 
in any body of water, including ground water. 

• Concentration and dispersal of pollutants or 
their byproducts through biological, physical, 
and chemical processes. 

• Effects of pollutants on biological 
community, diversity, productivity, and 
stability, including information on factors 
affecting rates of eutrophication and organic 
and inorganic sedimentation for varying types 
of receiving waters. 

These criteria are not rules, and they do not 
have any regulatory effect. They are criteria and 



175 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



guidelines that can be used to derive regulatory 
requirements, based on considerations of water 
quality impacts. The criteria are published in 
Quality Criteria for Water, often called the 
"Gold Book" (EPA 1986). 

On October 18, 1997, the 25th anniversary 
of the enactment of the Clean Water Act, the 
Vice President called for a renewed effort to 
restore and protect water quality. He asked that 
the Secretary of Agriculture and the EPA 
Administrator, working with other affected 
agencies, develop a Clean Water Action Plan 
that builds on clean water successes and 
addresses three major goals: 

• Enhanced protection from public health 
threats posed by water pollution. 

• More effective control of polluted runoff. 

• Promotion of water quality protection on a 
watershed basis. 

On February 19, 1998, the Clean Water 
Action Plan was released. It set in motion 
guidance to the partner federal agencies, 
directing them to coordinate and implement 
action items to assess, protect and restore 
watersheds. The plan consists of 111 action 
items designed to help improve the Nation's 
water quality. One action item pertains to active 
mines and states that: "... federal land 
management agencies and EPA will forge a 
partnership, consistent with the watershed- 
based strategy described [in the plan] ... to help 
resolve issues and enhance review, planning 
and operations for active mining operations." 
(EPA 1998). The plan is not a new regulatory 
program. Rather, it is a set of goals by which 
states and the federal agencies can 
cooperatively improve water quality. 

The Safe Drinking Water Act established 
drinking water regulations, setting maximum 
contaminant levels (MCLs), which are primary 
standards, and maximum contaminant level 
goals (MGLGs) for specific contaminants. 
Whereas MCLs are mandatory and enforceable 
standards, MCLGs are secondary standards and 
as such are nonenforceable (40 CFR Part 141). 
The National Primary Drinking Water 
Standards, set forth in 40 CFR Part 142, 



establish drinking water standards that all states 
must either adopt or have their own standards 
that are at least as stringent. 

The National Secondary Drinking Water 
Standards are set forth in 40 CFR 143. Mineral 
operations must meet all water protection 
standards that have evolved out of these federal 
laws. 

Protecting ground water is mainly a state 
responsibility. No federal laws deal specifically 
with ground water although the latest 
amendments (1996) to the Safe Drinking Water 
Act address source water protection areas 
(SWPA) that provide for protecting ground 
water sources used for drinking water. States 
are beginning to implement source water 
protection programs for areas that supply water 
for public use. These initiatives may be applied 
to mining if it is conducted near recharge areas 
for community water supplies. 

State regulatory agencies are paying 
increased attention to water resource concerns. 
Many states have enacted environmental 
protection laws since 1990, and many of these 
laws have mining provisions. Examples include 
Arizona's Aquifer Protection Permit program 
begun in 1994 and 1995 and the Mined Land 
Reclamation Act passed in 1994, and 
Colorado's Mined Land Reclamation Act, 
which was significantly amended in 1996. 

The state mining and water laws and 
regulations are constantly evolving in response 
to increasing regulatory experience in mining 
and advancing technology, citizen and legislator 
concern for environmental issues, and the state 
anticipation of federal action (McElfish and 
others 1996). But many states do not have 
programs in place that mimic the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 
Environmental regulation is handled through 
specific state programs, focusing on issues or 
activities, and are often either reclamation- 
based or water pollution control programs 
(McElfish and others 1996). 

Federal water protection requirements 
affect state water resource protection laws. For 
example, a major piece of legislation in Arizona 
in 1 986 created a broad water resource 
protection law, which adopted the federal water 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



quality standards as the state standard and 
provided that other water quality standards 
might be adopted as deemed needed (Arizona 
Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources 1998). 

The state and federal water protection 
requirements are used to ensure that mineral 
activities comply with all standards for water 
protection. Federal regulations to protect water 
resources apply to the production of federally 
owned minerals. These statutes either (1) focus 
on monitoring to ensure detection of 
contaminants at existing operations or (2) are 
aimed at providing protection measures such as 
creating aquifer protection areas for municipal 
drinking water wells by employing a buffer 
zone that precludes development. 

Many states have also enacted ground water 
classification programs to help make decisions 
on development and protection of water 
supplies. Some of these programs are not 
specific to mining but require the overall 
protection of ground water from contamination 
sources. 

Two pollution prevention programs 
focusing on ground water are the Wellhead 
Protection Program (WHP) created by the Safe 
Drinking Water Act amendments of 1986, and 
the Source Water Assessment and Protections 
Programs created by the Safe Drinking Water 
Act amendments of 1996. 

The wellhead protection program directs 
the states to protect wellhead areas from 
contaminants that may harm human health. 
Protection measures include (1) determining 
areas around public water supply wells that 
contribute to ground water and (2) managing 
potential sources of contamination in these 
areas to reduce threats to the resource. As of 
April 1, 1999, a total of 47 states and two 
territories had developed and implemented 
EPA-approved well head protection programs, 
and three states are continuing their efforts to 
develop such approved programs (EPA 1999a). 
This program may affect mining, depending on 
the state approach used. 

Under the Source Water Assessment and 
Protection Program, states have developed 
programs for delineating source water areas for 
public water supply systems and assessing the 



susceptibility of the source water to 
contamination (EPA 1999a). The applicability 
of this program to mining could vary, 
depending on how the state approaches the 
program. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Water Quality. 

Pit Lakes. Under No Action, after mining is 
completed, pit lakes could form and take 
decades to reach their full depth upon 
equilibrium with the regional ground water 
system. The number of new open pit mines in 
the foreseeable future would likely continue at 
the same rate as during the past 10 years. 
Potential impacts to water resources could 
include the following: 

• Migration of contaminated water from the pit 
lake into aquifers down gradient of the pit. 

• Discharge of contaminated ground water to 
the surface through springs or seeps. 

• Mortality of waterfowl landing on pit lakes if 
the lake water is toxic (acidic or alkaline). 

• Increased losses of water by evaporation. 

Acid Rock Drainage. Water quality could 
degrade in some areas from development of 
acid rock drainage from waste rock piles and 
tailing impoundments, and flow-through 
leakage from pit lakes. Acid rock drainage 
would largely be a problem where water quality 
analysis has not been accurate or mitigation 
measures have not been successful in 
preventing it. 

Water Quality Not Related to Acid Rock 
Drainage. Streams would continue to receive 
some loading of sediments from disturbed 
areas. Even best management practices would 
not eliminate sedimentation. Leachate from 
waste materials might not be acid rock drainage 
but might still have high level of metals. This 
leachate might contaminate soils and water. 

Surface Water Diversions. Some surface 
water courses would be diverted from their 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



natural channels where they pass over or near 
large mines. Many of these diversions would be 
temporary during mine operations. Others 
would be permanent because the stream could 
not be rerouted to the original channel after 
establishing a new channel with stream 
dynamics and vegetation. 

Spills. Accidental spills of mineral 
processing chemicals (cyanide) or catastrophic 
failure of tailings impoundments or heap leach 
pads could release toxic chemicals into streams 
and ground water. Most of these unplanned and 
undesirable events would be short-term impacts 
and successfully remediated, but sometimes at a 
high cost, if long-term remediation is needed. 
These situations are covered by the Resource 
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or the 
Clean Water Act (CWA) if toxic chemicals are 
released to water. 

Leakage from Tailings Impoundments and 
Heap Leach Facilities. Tailings impoundments 
and heap leach facilities are expected to leak. 
But because most facilities employ either leak 
detection or monitoring systems, leaks would 
be discovered and remediated. Detection could 
fail, and leakage could escape. Some 
constituents could percolate into the ground 
water below the impoundment and migrate 
down gradient to water sources, threatening 
receptors. Most facilities are monitored for up 
to 30 years after mine closure. 

Ground Water Degradation. Polluted 
ground water might emerge as nonpoint 
discharges (diffuse springs and seeps) that 
might not become evident for years after 
underground mines have closed (after mine 
filling). Such discharges might be indicators of 
a widespread contamination plume migrating 
from the mine. 

Water Quantity. Under No Action, impacts 
would continue from dewatering. Some springs 
would be lost. Some streams would dry up. 
Lowered water levels could require some farms 
to deepen irrigation wells. Ground water levels 
would take years, perhaps decades, to fully 
recover from dewatering at the largest mines. 
Some water levels might never fully recover to 
premining levels. 



Discharge of Pumpage. Water pumped 
from dewatering could be discharged into 
existing stream channels. New riparian areas 
might be temporarily created during 
dewatering, altering channel morphology. Some 
aquifers could contain waters naturally high in 
some constituents such as arsenic. Discharge of 
waters containing elevated levels of such 
constituents could migrate down channel into 
existing waters that meet standards and lower 
the quality of the receiving waters. 

Cumulative Impacts. Under No Action, 
cumulative impacts to water resources would 
result from new open pit mines being developed 
near existing mines. Such a situation is 
emerging in northern Nevada, where several 
open pit gold mines are being developed and 
new mines are in the EIS or planning phase. 
Other cumulative impacts could result in areas 
already affected by past mining. New mines in 
these areas could further degrade water quality 
of surface streams. On the other hand, new 
mineral activity in historically degraded areas 
could actually improve water quality. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

States are increasingly using water quality- 
based effluent limits to set their permitting 
regulations. Some states require design or 
performance standards, especially for such 
things as construction standards and liners for 
tailings impoundments and heap leach pads. 

Under the State Management Alternative, 
water resource impacts would vary due to the 
wide variation in state-based regulatory mining 
programs. Only three western states have their 
own National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) laws (NRC 1999). Much of the state 
regulation of mining is under the state 
reclamation laws, and all western states have 
enacted these types of regulations (NRC 1999). 
Some of the mining regulation comes under the 
purview of the state water pollution laws. 
Mining will likely have to comply with an 
evolving set of state standards and regulations 
that could become more restrictive if states 
adopt prescriptive standards. State mining 
regulations and legislation are constantly being 
updated, mainly due to three factors: 



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Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Increasing regulatory experience and 
improvements in technology for monitoring 
and detection. 

• Increasing citizen and legislator concern for 
the environment. 

• State anticipation of federal action in the 
absence of state regulations (McElfish and 
others 1996). 

The expected slight increase in mineral 
activity (up to 5%) could slightly increase 
potential impacts to water resources because of 
the increased number of mines operating. Some 
states could have decreased impacts to water, 
depending on the changes in regulations applied 
to mining. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

The Proposed Action would not change the 
existing framework of federal and state laws 
that protect water resources but would increase 
protective measures for water resources and 
reduce the risk of water resource contamination 
by doing the following: 

• Implementing tighter controls on capturing 
and treating acid rock drainage. 

• Managing potentially acid-forming materials 
(source controls). 

• Drilling and grouting exploration holes. 

• Collecting baseline data before operation 
startup. 

• Designing leach operations. 

• Monitoring water resources. 

• Backfilling pits. 

These measures would ensure that water 
resources would be protected to regulatory 
standards. Periodically, operations would 
deviate from the standards and would require 
time to comply with them. 

Predicting water quality impacts at mining 
sites is difficult and involves much uncertainty. 
Mitigation measures are designed around the 
uncertainty inherent in predicting water-rock 
interactions and implementing environmental 
controls. These measures would continue to 
protect water resources. 



Water Quality. 

Surface Water. The Proposed Action would 
probably reduce the extent of impacts to water 
resources from mining. The strengthened 
provisions for water quality protection would 
help reduce the potential for water quality 
degradation. Contamination to surface water 
courses could decline. 

Pit Lakes. Mine pit lakes could affect 
surface and ground water resources. Backfilling 
open pit mines would slightly reduce impacts 
from pit lakes. This provision would analyze 
backfilling and could reduce the number and 
the size of pit lakes and their impacts on water 
quality. 

Ground Water. Overall, ground water 
would be better protected under the Proposed 
Action than under No Action. The effect of 
backfilling on ground water quality would be 
highly variable, depending on the type of 
deposit mined and the effectiveness of 
segregating the backfill material to prevent the 
onset of acid generation if this material includes 
acid-forming waste rock. Overall, the 
backfilling requirement would be used to 
reduce impacts to ground water. 

The Proposed Action includes requirements 
to plug all exploration holes to prevent the 
mixing of water from different aquifers and to 
prevent movement of water downward into 
mine workings. These requirements would 
likely benefit ground water. 

Water Quantity. 

Dewatering. Under the Proposed Action 
impacts would continue from dewatering. Some 
springs would be lost. Some streams would dry 
up. Lowered water levels could require some 
farms to deepen irrigation wells. Ground water 
levels would take years, perhaps decades, to 
fully recover from dewatering at the largest 
mines. Some water levels might never fully 
recover to premining levels. 

Discharge of Pumpage. Pumpage from 
dewatering could be discharged into existing 
stream channels. Dewatering might create new 
riparian areas, resulting in altered channel 
morphology. Some aquifers could contain 
waters naturally high in some constituents such 



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Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



as arsenic. Discharge of waters containing 
elevated levels of such constituents could 
migrate down channel into existing waters that 
meet standards and lower the quality of 
receiving waters. 

Cumulative Impacts. The dominant water 
use in many of the mining regions consists of 
livestock grazing and agriculture. Livestock 
grazing has required the developing of springs 
and shallow wells to supply water for livestock. 
Agricultural uses include high-capacity 
irrigation wells that may be affected by cones 
of depression from mine dewatering. The 
irrigation uses lower water levels in shallow 
aquifers, but only locally, and often with 
seasonal fluctuations. Cumulative water 
resource impacts of mining would continue to 
be experienced where several mines are 
permitted in a region, such as in the Humboldt 
River Basin in northern Nevada. 

The most notable impact would be the 
effect of coalescing cones of depression from 
dewatering open pit mines that are close to each 
other. These effects could extend for a radius of 
several miles. The discharge of pumpage from 
dewatering several mines could become a 
serious water management problem that could 
be compounded by water quality concerns of 
the discharged water. 

Water discharged into streams can change 
river channel morphology, inundate or destroy 
riparian vegetation, and disturb fish habitat. 
Water discharged into reservoirs can percolate 
into the shallow ground water system and flow 
to perennial streams, causing increases in flow. 
Water temperature can increase if the water is 
discharged directly into streams, harming fish 
and benthic aquatic organisms. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would offer the greatest 
potential for protecting water quality. The 
provision that all disturbance greater than 
casual use would require a Plan of Operations 
would help determine activities that could affect 
water resources. The use of minimum national 
design standards for exploration, mining, and 



reclamation would decrease impacts to water 
resources. But these standards would increase 
costs to the industry and increase the workload 
for the agency in designing standards. 
Difficulty could arise in implementing some 
common standards across the West. 

The decrease in mineral activity, the more 
stringent standards, and the unsuitability 
requirements would all reduce potential adverse 
impacts to water resources. The requirement of 
designing all facilities to meet the probable 
maximum precipitation event could result in 
decreasing the amount of erosion and sediment 
from the facility and containing any spills or 
unplanned events. The requirement that Plans 
of Operation be renewed every 5 years could 
help find potential water resource problem 
areas. Bonding requirements to cover spills and 
other unplanned events or facility failures could 
provide a means to mitigate impacts to water 
resources. 

Water Quality. 

Pit Lakes. Requirements for pit backfilling 
would improve water quality at some mines. 
Eliminating pit lakes would decrease potential 
impacts to waterfowl if lake water is toxic to 
such species. 

Acid Rock Drainage. Evaluation and 
control measures for acid rock drainage would 
strengthen protection for water resources. 
Restricting operations to no more than 20 years 
of water treatment would result in applying 
source control measures to minimize water 
contamination. As a result, any treatment 
facilities that might be required as a last resort 
under Alternative 4 could be built at a smaller 
scale than under other alternatives. 

Water Quantity. The requirement for 
operators to restore the hydrologic balance 
within 20 years would prevent long-term 
impacts to water resources. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Alternative 5 would generally protect water 
resources slightly better than would the existing 
regulations because of the following provisions: 



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Chapter 1 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Exploration in existing special status lands or 
where more than 5 acres are disturbed would 
require a Plan of Operations. A Plan would 
address any water quality or quantity 
problems that need to be mitigated, and 
design features would be added to avoid 
unnecessary or undue degradation of the 
environment. 

• Project approvals would establish acceptable 
postclosure water quality conditions for pit 
lakes suitable for long-term use of the site 
and adequately protecting affected ground 
and surface waters, as well as wildlife and 
waterfowl. 

Impacts to water resources from acid- 
forming materials could increase under 
Alternative 5 because it does not require static 
or kinetic testing of rock to help recognize and 
guide the placement of potentially acid-forming 
materials. 

Water resources would be protected in an 
incremental amount over the existing 
regulations (Alternative 1 ). 

Soils 

Affected Environment 

The National Research Council (1981) 
defines soil as a discrete, definable, dynamic 
complex of organic, inorganic, biologic, and 
geologic materials. Soil forms slowly, 
beginning with the accumulation of 
unproductive materials and increasing in 
productivity with the natural processes of 
weathering, biological activity, and leaching. 
Soil's ability to support life depends on its 
capacity to absorb, store, and transfer energy 
and water. 

Brady (1974) outlined five major soil 
forming processes as ( 1 ) climate, (2) living 
organisms, (3) parent material, (4) topography, 
and (5) time. As the soil weathers, a soil profile 
forms. A profile consists of layers or horizontal 
units called horizons. These soil horizons can 
be grouped into four general zones: the O, A, B, 
and C horizons (Brady 1974). 



• The O horizon consists of organic-rich 
horizons formed above mineral soil, resulting 
from litter derived from dead plants and 
animals. 

• The A horizon consists of mineral horizons 
that lie at or near the surface and are zones of 
maximum leaching or eluviation. 

• The B horizon, sometimes referred to as the 
subsoil, consists of horizons in which 
illuviation (deposition from one horizon to 
another) from above contributes to an 
accumulation of such materials as iron and 
aluminum oxides and silicate clays, or in arid 
regions, accumulations of calcium carbonates 
or calcium sulfate. 

• The C horizon consists of the unconsolidated 
material underlying the A and B horizons and 
may or may not be the same as the parent 
from which the A and B horizons formed. 
The C horizon usually lies outside the zones 
of major biological activity and is little 
affected by soil-forming processes. 

A soil profile is characterized by the 
sequence and development of the horizons 
described above. These horizons normally can 
be distinguished from one another by their 
texture, color, structure, and organic matter 
content. Under the Comprehensive Soil Survey 
System, the soil profile can be classified into 
one of 10 broad classifications called soil orders 
(Brady 1974). Within the EIS study area are 10 
major soil orders: Andisols, Aridisols, Entisols, 
Inceptisols, Mollisols, Ultisols, Alfisols, 
Histosols, and Spodosols. 

• Andisols formed under the strong influence 
of volcanic ash. They are often erosive and 
found mostly in forested areas. 

• Aridisols developed in dry regions and are 
usually light colored and low in organic 
matter. They may have accumulations of 
sodium, soluble salts, and lime. Desert 
shrubs, sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper plant 
communities commonly grow on Aridisols. 

• Entisols are relatively young soils formed in 
recently deposited materials. They therefore 
have little soil profile development. 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Inceptisols are also young soils that have 
undergone more weathering and soil-forming 
processes than Entisols. Inceptisols are 
common in coniferous and deciduous forests. 

• Mollisols have a thick, dark colored surface 
horizon rich in organic matter and are most 
abundant in prairie grasslands. 

• Ultisols occur on stable surfaces that have 
undergone advanced soil development 
resulting in the accumulation of a clay-rich 
subsurface horizon. Ultisols are usually found 
in forests. 

• Alfisols also exhibit clay accumulation within 
the soil profile and are most common in 
coniferous and deciduous forests at higher 
elevations and in mountain shrub 
communities. 

• Histosols contain at least 50% organic matter 
in the upper 32 inches of their profile and 
occur within riparian areas, seeps, and bogs. 

• Spodosols are mineral soils with a subsurface 
horizon having an accumulation of organic 
matter. Spodosols are common along coastal 
areas of Alaska and support Sitka spruce and 
western hemlock. 

Since the inception of the 3809 regulations 
in 1981, exploration and mining have disturbed 
about 214,000 acres of public lands, including 
the soils on them. Except for placer mining, 
most of this disturbance has taken place within 
the western contiguous states, predominantly on 
Aridisols and Mollisols. The bulk of placer 
mining on public lands has occurred in stream 
channels in Alaska, disturbing mainly Entisols. 
Of the 214,000 acres disturbed by mining under 
the 3809 regulations, 65,000 acres have been 
reclaimed. The remaining 149,000 acres yet to 
be reclaimed are still part of active mining 
operations and, except for open pits not 
backfilled, will eventually be reclaimed. 

Reclamation in the early 1980s consisted 
mainly of grading to gentler slopes followed 
occasionally by seeding. Attempts at salvaging 
topsoil were inconsistent. Disturbed areas were 
often revegetated directly on the regraded 
surfaces of waste rock, tailings, or heap leach 



material. Through the mid-1980s, as larger 
mines were proposed, it became a more 
common practice to conduct soil surveys and 
salvage the soil surface-the O and the A 
horizons-commonly known as topsoil, for later 
use on the reconstructed surfaces. 

Between 6 inches and 2 feet of topsoil are 
typically salvaged except where bedrock is 
close to the surface or surface accumulations of 
salts or sodium inhibit plant growth. Where 
topsoil is lacking or unsuitable, reclamation is 
still undertaken directly on the reconstructed 
surfaces. Soil amendments such as mulch and 
fertilizer may be used to minimize erosion and 
improve the fertility of the reconstructed 
surfaces for vegetation. Reclamation plans 
generally address issues involving postmining 
physical and chemical characteristics of the 
soils on particular sites. 

For placer mining, the surface layer of soil, 
where it exists in enough quantity, is usually 
stripped and used later for reclamation. But the 
bulk of placer mining on public lands has taken 
place within Alaska, and many of these areas 
have been already mined in the past. Soils that 
may have been there have since been mined 
through and lost. Larger placer mines are 
usually reclaimed by regrading tailings and 
coarse rock stockpiles to re-create the channel 
and flood plain. Vegetation is then allowed to 
become established by natural succession. 
Placer mining usually occurs within the 
confines of a drainage system. Over time, 
especially during high flows, the drainage 
reworks the loose material and establishes a 
new floodplain. 

As the reclamation program for the 3809 
regulations has evolved, many western states 
also began to institute mine reclamation 
programs of their own, on private as well as the 
public lands. (See Appendix D for a summary 
of state mine reclamation programs.) Many of 
these state reclamation programs were 
developed at about the same time as the 
existing 3809 regulations, and they often 
mirrored and reemphasized BLM's reclamation 
programs. 



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Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

Mining typically follows a logical 
sequence, starting with exploration and 
proceeding to extraction when economic 
deposits are found. Impacts of this sequence on 
soils range from dispersed and negligible during 
early exploration to more local and intense as 
mineralization and ore deposits are defined and 
mined. 

With mining, disturbance is nearly total as 
the soil profile is destroyed either by excavation 
or burial. The National Research Council 
(1981) summarized the effects of soil 
disturbance by mining as generally more 
adverse than advantageous because many 
beneficial soil characteristics require hundreds 
to tens of thousands of years to reach steady 
state. 

Disturbance, however, may actually 
increase a soil's productivity where mining 
breaks up a restrictive hardpan or where 
replacement of sodium or salt-affected soils 
results in greater plant growth (National 
Research Council 1981; Schafer 1984). 

Because only the topsoil is usually salvaged 
and stockpiled for later reclamation, the loss of 
the rest of the soil profile is almost always 
irreversible, including, whatever forces these 
deeper horizons played in favoring the growth 
of one plant over another or one plant 
community over another. 

Reclamation of mine disturbances, either 
concurrent with mining or after closure, 
customarily involves grading slopes to less 
steep angles, applying topsoil, and revegetating. 
Except for open pit mining, most mining 
disturbances can be reclaimed to vegetation that 
is adapted to the reconstructed surface and new 
soil regime. Most often, however, the newly 
reconstructed soil would resemble a younger 
soil, such as an Entisol, with little soil profile 
development. 



Alternative 1: No Action 

Under the existing 3809 regulations topsoil 
is salvaged and stockpiled for reclamation use 
later. Upon final reclamation, slopes are usually 
graded to blend with the surrounding 
topography, topsoil is reapplied, and new 
surfaces are seeded. The main emphasis of this 
reclamation has been on establishing a 
productive cover of perennial plants roughly 
equal to what exists next to the mine 
disturbance. To this end, mine reclamation has 
been fairly successful (Ross 1996). In Alaska, 
vegetation cover is generally allowed to come 
back naturally following grading and reapplying 
topsoil. 

The exceptions to the salvaging of topsoil 
occur under the following conditions: 

• The soil has been lost due to past mining. 

• Little soil exists to strip because of thinness to 

bedrock or a hardpan. 

• The surface has chemical or physical 

properties that inhibit plant growth. 

In these latter cases, materials (waste rock, 
tailings, or heap leach material) left on the 
surface after regrading are reclaimed. Problems 
may occur, however, where the reconstructed 
surfaces of waste rock, tailings, or heap leach 
material are also harmful to or unsuitable for 
plant growth for physical and chemical reasons. 
Soil amendments such as mulch and fertilizer 
may be added to improve the fertility of the 
new surface. But the new soil might not be able 
to support the same plants or diversity of plants 
as before. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Except for small disturbances, all the states 
in the study area have some form of program in 
place for reclaiming mining disturbance. For 
activities involving less than 3 to 5 acres of 
surface disturbance, states like Arizona, Alaska, 
Montana, Nevada, and Washington do not 
require operators to notify state authorities of 
surface-disturbance or reclamation, even though 
reclamation is required. Without oversite, some 



183 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



of these small-sized projects would not receive 
the same level of reclamation as they might 
under the existing regulations where 
notification is required. 

State requirements for salvaging and 
reapplying topsoil upon reclamation are similar 
to BLM's existing 3809 regulations, but state 
agencies are usually staffed at much lower 
levels and may lack their federal counterpart's 
resources in administering the mine reclamation 
program. State agencies are usually located in 
one central place in contrast to BLM, which has 
field offices spread throughout the state nearer 
the mining activities and public lands they 
manage. BLM offices also have reclamation 
specialists and soil scientists whose expertise 
would ensure that soil resources are salvaged 
for final reclamation. Because of the state's 
reduced oversite, less topsoil may be salvaged 
by the operator or safely stockpiled from the 
impacts of future mine disturbance under 
Alternative 2 under BLM management under 
the existing regulations or proposed 
alternatives. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

The Proposed Action requires the use of 
replacement soil where the topsoil is of poor 
quality. Under the existing regulations, typically 
only the surface horizons or topsoil is salvaged 
and stockpiled for reclamation use. In most 
cases, the topsoil provides the most desirable 
growth medium for plant growth. But in some 
cases the topsoil itself is harmful to plant 
growth because of accumulations of salt or 
sodium, or where the volume of topsoil itself 
may be limited because of shallow depth to 
bedrock or a hardpan. In these cases, salvaging 
and stockpiling overburden or waste rock with 
desirable characteristics for replacement growth 
medium would promote better revegetation than 
under the existing regulations. 

Mining can lead to accelerated soil erosion, 
where the surface is disturbed and vegetation 
has been disturbed or removed. The Proposed 
Action requires that erosion be minimized 
through grading of reclaimed slopes to gentler 
contours followed by revegetation to hold the 



soil in place. This requirement should lead to 
less soil erosion than under the existing 
regulations, Alternative 2, or Alternative 5. 

Under the Proposed Action, all mining 
projects would require Plans of Operations, 
resulting in a more formal review and approval 
of activities. This review and approval would 
ensure that more soil is salvaged and conserved 
for final reclamation than under the existing 
regulations. 

The Proposed Action would require 
reclamation bonds for all Notices. This 
financial assurance would prompt better 
compliance by the operator with reclamation 
measures than under the existing regulations, 
including the salvaging and stockpiling of 
topsoil and its use in final reclamation of the 
site. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would require that subsurface 
horizons as well as the soil surface be salvaged 
and stockpiled. Compared to the other 
alternatives, this requirement to salvage more of 
the soil profile and return it near its original 
vertical order on the reconstructed surface 
would promote easier restoration of the site to 
the same native plants and plant community 
that grew there before mining. 

Alternative 4 would also require that all 
operations have Plans of Operations, resulting 
in a more formal review and approval of 
activities. This review and approval would 
ensure that more soil is salvaged and conserved 
for final reclamation. Alternative 4 would also 
require operators to hire third-party contractors 
to monitor operations, and this greater on-the- 
ground presence of monitors would ensure that 
the proper depth and volumes of soil are 
salvaged and stockpiled according to the 
reclamation plan. 

Alternative 4 would require that all final 
slopes be graded to 3 to 1 (horizontal to 
vertical). This requirement would result in less 
soil erosion than any other alternative and 
would facilitate better revegetation. The 
standard, however, would be impossible to 



184 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



apply where the natural terrain is steeper than 
3:1, which is common where mining occurs. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5 all mining projects 
would require Plans of Operations, resulting in 
a more formal review and approval of activities 
and ensuring that more soil is salvaged and 
conserved for final reclamation than under the 
existing regulations. The requirement for the 
bonding of all Notice-level operations would 
also give more assurance that disturbed areas 
are reclaimed than could be given by the 
existing regulations or Alternative 2. 

Alternative 5 would require reclamation 
bonds for all Notice-level operations. Compared 
to the existing regulations, this financial 
assurance would prompt better compliance by 
the operator with reclamation measures, 
including, the salvaging and stockpiling of 
topsoil and its use in reclaiming the site 

Cumulative and Residual Impacts 
to Soil Resources 

An estimated 214,000 acres of public lands 
were disturbed by exploration and mining in the 
first 18 years after the 3809 regulations went 
into effect in 1981. Projections for mineral 
activities over the next 20 years show that 
surface disturbance under the existing 
regulations and alternatives would disturb as 
much as 183,000 more acres. The total surface 
disturbance on soil resources from past and 
reasonable foreseeable mineral activities over 
20 years, therefore, would equal as much as 
400,000 acres. This amounts represents about 
0.12% of the total acreage of public lands and 
Stock Raising Homestead Act lands 
administered by the BLM within the study area 
(see Table 3-1). The cumulative impact from 
mining activities on soil resources within the 
study area is therefore rather limited. 

The 400,000 acres disturbed by mining 
would undergo long-lasting residual impacts. 
Even though most of this disturbance would 
eventually be reclaimed, mining destroys the 
original soil profile by excavation or burial. A 



soil profile ordinarily requires hundreds to tens 
of thousands of years to develop. Because only 
the surface or topsoil is usually salvaged, the 
loss of the remaining profile constitutes a near 
irreversible commitment of these soil resources. 
Alternative 4 would require more of the soil 
profile to be salvaged, resulting in less of a 
commitment of these soil resources then the 
other alternatives. 

Typically, topsoil is stockpiled for long 
periods in open-pit operations and begins to 
lose fertility. Due to a lack of oxygen, soils 
buried under a few feet would begin to lose the 
microfauna and flora that are important in 
nutrient cycling. At the same time, seeds stored 
in the buried topsoil also begin to lose their 
viability, and the benefits of the soil as a native 
seedbank are diminished. 

Once reclamation is completed, however, 
any micro-fauna and flora still viable in the 
topsoil would begin to spread or volunteer from 
outside onto the site. Conceivably, within a few 
years to decades, the surface soil should begin 
to approach the surrounding, undisturbed areas 
in organic matter content and presence of 
microfauna and flora. If left undisturbed, 
cryptogamic crusts might also begin to 
reestablish within the same time frames. 

Vegetation 

Affected Environment 

The pattern of vegetation in North America 
has fluctuated widely in the past 10,000 to 
12,000 years, following the melting of the 
continental glaciers. During the postglacial 
period the climate was notably warmer and 
drier than today. The boundaries of the forests 
and shrub-like grasslands have fluctuated 
accordingly (Mehringer and Wigand 1987), as 
have the boundaries of other drier-site plant 
communities. Still, the types of plant 
communities that will grow on a site are 
dictated most often by the site's soil type, its 
topographic position, and the area's climate. 

Plant community types within the EIS study 
area can be divided into the following broad 
groups: sagebrush, desert shrub, southwest 



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Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



shrubsteppe, chaparral-mountain shrub, pinyon- 
juniper, mountain and plateau grasslands, plains 
grasslands, annual grasslands, alpine grasslands, 
coniferous and deciduous forests, riparian 
communities, coastal forests, boreal forests, 
lowland tundra, and upland tundra. This section 
briefly discusses all of these groups except for 
riparian communities, which are discussed in 
the Riparian- Wetland Resources section of this 
chapter. For a more complete description of 
most of these plant community types, see the 
Rangeland Reform '94 Draft EIS (BLM 1994a). 

Sagebrush 

Within the upper and lower basin and range 
provinces, the Colorado Plateau, the Columbia 
Plateau, and the Wyoming basins, sagebrush 
often dominates dry slopes and lava bed flats, 
ancient lakebeds, and broad alluvial basins. 
Most of the sagebrush zone is found at 
elevations from 2,000 to 7,000 feet. Where 
sagebrush dominates below 7,000 feet, annual 
precipitation varies between 8 and 20 inches 
(Wright and others 1979). 

Important shrubs include big sagebrush, 
black sagebrush, low sagebrush, rabbitbrush, 
Mormon tea, curly leaf mountain mahogany, 
bitterbrush, snowberry, and horsebrush. 
Important perennial grasses include Sandberg 
bluegrass, blue bunch wheatgrass, western 
wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, Great Basin wildrye, 
junegrass, Indian ricegrass, squirreltail, 
muttongrass, and needle-and-thread grass. Red 
brome, medusahead, and cheatgrass are 
introduced annual grasses that have become 
abundant. Common forbs include wild onion, 
sego lily, balsam root, mulesear, Indian 
paintbrush, larkspur, tarweed, rubberweed, 
lupine, phlox, locoweed, and annual mustards 
(Cronquist and others 1972). 

Desert Shrub 

Desert shrub communities occupy the hot 
and cold deserts of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and 
California. These deserts are dominated by 
shrubs in open stands, with large amounts of 
bare soil or desert pavement exposed. 
Understory vegetation is often sparse at lower 



elevations except when flushes of annuals are 
produced by seasonal precipitation in the 
Mojave and Sonoran deserts. 

Desert plants have adapted to harsh 
growing conditions, which include root systems 
of some shrubs that can access deep soil 
moisture, as well as, shallow roots that extend 
laterally some distance and compete with 
herbaceous vegetation for surface moisture. 
Plants such as cacti and other succulents have 
special tissue in their stems or leaves to store 
moisture and limit moisture losses by 
minimizing transpiration. Annuals germinate, 
mature, and produce seeds only during 
favorable temperatures and moisture conditions, 
often within a single season. Desert plants have 
also adapted to drought caused by high soil 
salinity or alkalinity by removing excess salts 
from their tissues and regulating salt uptake 
from their roots. 

Southwest Shrubsteppe 

The southwest shrubsteppe vegetation zone 
occupies the semidesert grasslands of southeast 
Arizona, southern New Mexico and the 
northern Chihuahuan Desert. Elevations of the 
semidesert grasslands range from 3,300 to 
5,000 feet (Brown 1985). More than half of the 
10 to 20 inches of annual precipitation falls 
during the summer growing season (Benson and 
Darrow 1981). Semidesert grasslands are best 
developed on deep, well-drained soils at level 
sites on the higher plains. Their aspect is a 
grassy landscape broken up by large, well- 
spaced shrubs. In the Southwest, semiarid 
grasslands often form an alternating landscape 
mosaic with Chihuahuan desertscrub. 

Large areas of this grassland are dominated 
by mesquite, tarbush, acacia, and creosotebush. 
Black grama and tobosa are the most 
characteristic grasses. Other important grasses 
on the better sites include sideoats grama, hairy 
grama, bush muhly, vine mesquite, Arizona 
cottontop, slim tridens, pappus grass, 
tanglehead, threeawns and curly mesquite. 
Other shrubs and succulents characteristic of 
this grassland include yuccas, bear grass, sotol, 
agaves, allthorn, sumac, hackberry, ocotillo, 



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Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



acacias, and mimosas. Many variations of cacti 
grow in the drier sites, especially on outcrops. 

Chaparral-Mountain Shrub 

The chaparral -mountain shrub vegetation 
type occupies foothills, mountain slopes, and 
canyon habitats ranging from southern Oregon 
to the Mexican border, and from sea level to 
more than 5,000 feet. Chaparral-mountain shrub 
communities typically consist of dense to 
moderately opens stands of evergreen shrubs 
that grow to roughly uniform height. Most 
chaparral shrubs are deep rooted, sprout readily 
from the root crown, and regenerate quickly 
after burning (Brown 1 982). 

Canyon live oak is a common dominant of 
the interior chaparral. Associated shrubs include 
manzanita; mountain mahogany; yellowleaf 
silktassel; sumac; hollyleaf buckthorn; chamise; 
red shank; and several sophora, ceanothus, and 
other oak species. Important grasses include 
sideoats and hairy grama, cane bluestem, plains 
lovegrass, threeawns, and wolftail. These 
grasses are largely confined to recently burned 
areas and rocky, protected sites. Forbs are not 
particularly abundant except during brief 
periods after burns (Brown 1982). 

Pinyon- Juniper 

The pinyon pine and juniper vegetation 
type grows at mid-elevations on mountain 
slopes within and next to the Great Basin. This 
is a cold-adapted evergreen woodland with the 
unequal dominance of two conifers, junipers 
and pinyon pine. The pinyon-juniper woodland 
reaches its greatest development on mesas, 
plateaus, slopes, and ridges from 3,200 to 8,400 
feet (Blackburn and Tueller 1970; Evans 1988). 
Precipitation ranges from 10 to 25 inches 
annually (Blackburn and Tueller 1970). Pinyon- 
juniper communities survive on a wide variety 
of soils, ranging from shallow to moderately 
deep and from coarse and rocky to fine 
compacted clays. 

Rocky Mountain juniper, Utah juniper, and 
oneseed juniper often grow together (Cronquist 
and others 1972). In the dry mountains of 
southern New Mexico and below the Mosollon 



Rim in Arizona, Rocky Mountain juniper, Utah 
juniper, and doubleleaf juniper disappear, and 
alligator juniper (a sprouting variation of 
juniper), Emory oak, gray oak, and Mexican 
pinyon appear (Brown 1982). The associated 
understory of shrubs, grasses, and forbs in 
jumper communities commonly consists of a 
variety of vegetation from sites near woodland 
communities. 

Mountain and Plateau Grasslands 

The mountain and plateau grasslands are 
located at moderate to high elevations (3,000 to 
more than 9,000 feet) in the West. These 
grasslands often occur within a vegetation 
mosaic created by the complex environment of 
the Rocky Mountains. The grasslands 
ecosystem receives from 8 to 30 inches of 
precipitation annually (Garrison and others 
1977; Mueggler and Stewart 1980), at least half 
of it usually falling during the growing season. 
The topography of mountain and plateau 
grasslands ranges from level areas or valley 
floors to alluvial benches and foothills or steep 
mountain slopes. 

Important grasses in mountain and plateau 
grasslands include grama grasses, bromes, 
bluegrasses, oatgrasses, sedges, wheatgrasses, 
fescues, needlegrasses, and Junegrass. Diverse 
throughout the region, the forb component 
varies with the site, latitude, and management. 
Shrubs include fringed sagebrush, 
rabbitbrushes, snakeweed, shrubby cinquefoils, 
wild roses, and horsebrush (Mueggler and 
Stewart 1980). 

Plains Grasslands 

The plains grasslands vegetation type is 
found in the Great Plains, stretching from 
eastern Montana, North Dakota, and Western 
Minnesota southward to eastern New Mexico 
and Texas. The western half of the plains 
grassland forms a broad, flat belt of land 
sloping gradually eastward from the foothills of 
the Rocky Mountains. Mixed and shortgrass 
communities are most commonly found on 
federal lands within this vegetation type. 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



The short grasslands communities stretch 
from southeast New Mexico through eastern 
Colorado to southeast Wyoming. Annual 
precipitation ranges from 11 to 20 inches, and 
elevations range from 6,000 feet on the western 
edge to 3,000 feet on the southern edge. 
Dominant grasses are buffalograss and blue 
grama, with smaller amounts of threeawns, 
lovegrass, tridens, sand dropseed, sideoats 
grama, tobosa, galleta, vine mesquite, and bush 
muhly. Forbs are seldom a major component, 
except during wet years. Dominant woody 
plants include honey mesquite, shinnery oak, 
sand sagebrush, snakeweed, yucca, fourwing 
saltbush, cholla, and prickly pear. 

The mixed grass communities stretch from 
northeast Wyoming through North and South 
Dakota and eastern Montana. Precipitation 
varies from 20 to 28 inches, increasing from 
west to east. Elevation ranges from about 3,000 
feet at the western edge to 900 feet in Texas 
(Wright and Bailey 1980). Sedges and cool- 
season grasses, such as needlegrasses, 
wheatgrasses, and fescues, dominate the 
communities of Montana and North and South 
Dakota. Warm-season grasses, particularly blue 
grama, also grow in mixed grass communities 
and increase in dominance to the south. 

Other important grasses in mixed grass 
communities include green needlegrass, prairie 
sandreed, needle-and-thread grass, junegrass, 
sand dropseed, buffalograss, sideoats grama, 
threeawns, silver beardgrass, sand bluestem, 
little bluestem, plains lovegrass, and vine 
mesquite (Brown 1982). Shrubs found in mixed 
grass communities include juniper, sand 
sagebrush, silver buffaloberry, sumac, wild 
rose, rabbitbrushes, yucca, snakeweed, cholla, 
and winterfat (Brown 1982; Mueggler and 
Stewart 1980). Forbs may be an important 
component of mixed grass communities. 
Common forbs include goldeneye, groundsel, 
sunflowers, primrose, globemallow, asters, scurf 
pea, coneflower, and bricklebush (Brown 1982). 

Annual Grasslands 

Annual grasslands occur in California, 
especially, on small plains and gently rolling 



hills scattered throughout southern California, 
the Central Valley, and in the coastal mountains 
as far north as Humboldt County. Annual 
grasslands grow at elevations ranging from sea 
level to 4,000 feet. Relicts of the pristine 
California prairies are found within small 
parcels of annual grasslands. 

Fall rains cause the germination of the 
annual grassland plants that grow slowly during 
winter and then grow rapidly in the spring as 
temperatures rise. Dominating annual 
grasslands are such introduced annual grasses 
as wild oats, soft chess, ripgut brome, red 
brome, wild barley, and foxtail fescue. 
Common forbs include redstem filaree, 
broadstem filaree, turkey mullen, true clovers, 
and burr clover. Perennial grasses that are found 
in moist, lightly grazed or relict areas include 
Idaho fescue and purple needlegrass. 

Alpine Grasslands 

Beginning at the upper limits of tree 
growth, alpine plant communities extend 
upward to the exposed rocks of mountain tops. 
Alpine communities have similar combinations 
of vegetation throughout, including, phlox, 
clovers, alpine avens, yarrow, alpine sedge, 
alpine bluegrass, elk sedge, spikerush, and 
tufted hairgrass. The willow communities 
typically consist of alpine willow, barren 
ground willow. Tealeaf willow, and snow 
willow. Alpine meadow communities grow on 
sheltered benches, slopes, and level areas where 
soils are well developed. Alpine marshes 
replace ponds or develop wherever springs and 
melting snowbanks contribute to a continuously 
moist habitat. 

Coniferous and Deciduous Forests 

Coniferous and deciduous forests grow in 
the Rocky Mountains; the Sierra Nevada; the 
Cascade Range; and the mountains of the upper 
and lower basin and range provinces, the 
Colorado Plateau, and the Columbia Plateau. 
Species dominance varies by altitude, latitude, 
slope, aspect or other topographical position, 
soil characteristics, and climate regime. 
Important forest communities of the western 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



rangelands include ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, 
aspen, lodgepole pine, hemlock-spruce, cedar- 
hemlock, spruce-fir, redwood, and western 
hardwood. 

Ponderosa pine is the largest western forest, 
and old-growth ponderosa forests are often 
park- like, having old trees interspersed within 
groups of young trees and a well-developed 
herbaceous understory. Douglas-fir 
communities are found from the northern 
portion of the California Coast Range, through 
Oregon and Washington, and throughout the 
Rocky Mountains, generally between the 
ponderosa pine and spruce-fir communities 
(Wright and Bailey 1982). 

Cedar-hemlock forests grow in northern 
Idaho and northwest Montana, where the 
westerly winds carry oceanic influence as far 
inland as the Continental Divide. Douglas-fir 
and western white pine are common associates. 
Understory in this zone consists of a rich 
growth of shrubs and herbs (Wright and Bailey 
1982). 

Hemlock-spruce communities extend south 
from British Columbia along the Washington 
and Oregon coasts and a portion of the Cascade 
Mountains in Washington. Elevations range 
from 200 to 4,000 feet. The dominant species 
are Sitka spruce and western hemlock. Western 
red cedar, Douglas-fir, and grand fir may also 
be present to a lesser degree. Common 
understory plants include vine maple, red 
whortleberry, Cascades mohonia, twin flower, 
California dewberry, coast rhododendron, holly 
fern, and cutleaf fern. The dense overstory 
reduces production. 

Lodgepole pine grows mainly in the central 
and northern Rocky Mountain of Colorado, 
Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. 
It is also found in the higher mountains of 
southern California. Lodgepole pine tends to 
dominate its communities, often forming dense, 
pure stands with little understory. The 
understory can vary from being virtually absent 
to a rich herbaceous layer next to meadow 
edges. Often invading riparian habitats, 
lodgepole pine can have a substantial 
understory of bitterbrush, Idaho fescue, 
needlegrass, oatgrass, and wildryes. 



The spruce-fir community has open to 
dense evergreen forests and patches of shrubby 
undergrowth with scattered herbs. Composition 
of the overstory varies widely but is usually 
dominated by some combination of red fir, 
Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, mountain 
hemlock, white bark pine, western white pine, 
lodgepole pine, foxtail pine, limber pine, and 
bristlecone pine. 

The redwood community is a composite 
name for a variety of mixed conifers that grow 
within the coastal influence: Sitka spruce, grand 
fir, redwood, Douglas-fir, and red alder. The 
redwood community is restricted to the coastal 
areas of California and southern Oregon. 

Western hardwood communities, sometimes 
called oak woodlands, grow in California and 
the western interior valleys of Oregon, 
especially the foothills surrounding the Central 
Valley and coastal rangelands in California and 
the Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue River 
valleys in Oregon. Trees in these communities 
include Oregon white oak, Coulter pine, digger 
pine, coast live oak, blue oak, valley oak, and 
interior live oak. 

Coastal Forests 

Coastal forests occupy the south and 
southeast coasts of Alaska and are dominated 
by closed and open evergreen forests, mainly 
Sitka spruce-western hemlock. Closed and open 
deciduous forest are rare and limited mainly to 
stands of black cottonwood or red alder on 
floodplains, streamsides, and recently disturbed 
sites. Woodland lodgepole pine communities 
grade into bog types on poorly drained sites. On 
coastal deltas extensive areas of sedge and grass 
wet meadows are common (Viereck and others 
1992). 

Boreal Forests 

Occupying vast areas of interior Alaska, 
boreal forests are dominated by closed, open, 
and woodland evergreen forest of black and 
white spruce, but have extensive areas of open 
and closed deciduous forest of paper birch, 
aspen, and balsam poplar. Within this 
vegetation zone are extensive mosaics of shrub 



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Chapter 1 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



and herbaceous types, including extensive areas 
of subarctic lowland sedge and sedge-moss bog 
meadows as well as willow, sweetgale, and 
graminoid bogs (Viereck and others 1992). 

Lowland Tundra 

The dominant vegetation of the lowland 
tundra consists of wet sedge meadow 
interspersed with many lakes. The lowland 
tundra occurs mainly on the coastal plain of 
northern Alaska and in the low lying deltas and 
other coastal areas in western Alaska (Viereck 
and others 1992). 

Upland Tundra 

Over much of arctic and western Alaska the 
upland tundra is dominated by Eriophorum 
vaginatum tundra with areas of Dryas dwarf 
shrub tundra on exposed ridges and dry rocky 
sites. In mountainous areas above treeline, 
Dryas dwarf and ericaceous shrub tundra are 
the most widespread plant communities. In 
many areas in western Alaska and in most areas 
near treeline in the Alaska and Brooks ranges, 
the zone includes extensive areas of shrubland, 
mainly low shrub dwarf birch. On the Aleutian 
Islands, the most widespread community is 
Empetrum heath, but extensive areas of dry and 
mesic graminoid herbaceous vegetation also 
occurs (Viereck and others 1992). 

Threatened, Endangered, and 
Candidate Plant Species 

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was 
passed to conserve threatened and endangered 
species and the ecosystems on which they 
depend (see Appendix C). Under the act, 
species are classed as threatened, endangered, 
proposed, or candidate species. Endangered 
plant species are listed because they are in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of their range. Threatened 
species are those likely to become endangered 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of their range. Proposed 
species are those for which a proposed rule to 
list as endangered or threatened has been 
published in the Federal Register. Candidate 



plant species are on file with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service as vulnerable but where further 
action is precluded by higher priority listing. To 
date, about 129 plants are listed as federally 
endangered or threatened plant species on BLM 
administered lands (see Appendix F). 

Impacts of Mining 

The 43 CFR 3809 regulations first took 
effect in 1981. From 1981 through 1998, 
mineral exploration and mining disturbed 
214,000 acres. Except for placer mining, much 
of this land has been disturbed within the 
western contiguous states, mostly in the 
sagebrush, mountain grasslands, pinyon-juniper, 
prairie grasslands, and southwestern 
shrubsteppe plant community types. Miners 
have extracted placer deposits on public lands 
predominantly within stream channels in 
Alaska, disturbing mainly riparian vegetation 
(discussed in the Riparian-Wetland Resources 
section of this EIS). 

Many plant communities disturbed by 
mining under the existing regulations were 
within historic mining districts that had 
themselves been affected by past mining in 
addition to other activities such as livestock 
grazing and range seedings. As a result of these 
past disturbances, weeds have invaded many 
areas. 

Of the 214,000 acres disturbed under the 
3809 regulations, 65,000 acres have been 
reclaimed so far. Except for unbackfilled open 
pits, the remaining acreage will eventually be 
reclaimed as these active operations reach 
closure. Reclamation under the existing 
regulations has evolved since 1981 as the 
experience and knowledge of operators and 
BLM have grown. At the same time, many 
western states have developed mine reclamation 
programs in coordination with BLM. 

In the early 1980s reclamation consisted of 
limited grading followed occasionally by 
seeding. Disturbed areas were often revegetated 
directly on regraded surfaces of waste rock, 
tailings, or heap leach material. Beginning in 
the mid-1980s seeding became a more common 
practice. It is standard practice now to salvage 
topsoil and seed disturbed areas. 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Operators conducted early seedings using a 
diverse seed mix upon final reclamation. Early 
seedings consisted mostly of grasses developed 
for livestock grazing and known for their 
drought tolerance and success in establishing 
itself under a variety of circumstances. Grasses 
such as crested wheatgrass (Agropyron 
cristatum) were extensively used because seed 
could be obtained in commercial quantities, 
established easily, and stabilized disturbed 
areas. This practice more recently has shifted to 
seedings using a diverse mixture of native 
grasses, forbs, and shrubs. 

Over the last several years BLM has 
incorporated more rigorous requirements for 
monitoring revegetation success, as in Nevada 
where the perennial plant cover of reclaimed 
areas is compared to adjacent, undisturbed 
reference areas. Ross (1996) evaluated the 
reclamation success of mine disturbances on 
public lands in Nevada and found that in most 
cases total perennial plant cover of reclaimed 
areas equaled and often exceeded the cover of 
adjacent undisturbed reference areas. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

Most mine disturbance has and is expected 
to continue to take place on public lands within 
Nevada, Montana, California, Arizona, Idaho, 
Utah, and Alaska, and would affect the 
sagebrush, desert shrub, pinyon-juniper, and 
southwest shrubsteppe plant communities. Little 
mining has or is expected to occur on public 
lands within coniferous and deciduous forests 

Except for open pits and arctic, alpine, and 
desert environments, which are among the most 
fragile and slowest to recover from disturbance, 
most mining disturbances can be reclaimed to 
vegetation that is adapted to the reconstructed 
surface and new soil regime. 

Upon final reclamation, the classic view of 
ecological succession holds that a series of 
plant assemblages will progressively occupy a 
site following a disturbance. Each plant 



assemblage is then replaced by a successor until 
the final climax community is reestablished. 
Where the goal has been to restore the 
predisturbance ecosystem, a typical 
management strategy is to hasten the rate of 
succession by planting late serai species in the 
hope that the vegetation will continue quickly 
toward the premining plant community. The 
plant community that does establish on the 
reconstructed surface may well approximate the 
plants that grew there before. Chances are, 
however, the site will greatly differ from 
premining conditions, and a different plant 
community or potential will become 
established. 

Drastic disturbances such as mining may 
yield substrates that dramatically differ from 
those before disturbance. Such differences may 
affect the rate of succession, chronically 
altering its direction (Schafer 1984). Different 
trajectories of succession are therefore possible 
because of different initial conditions relative to 
premining conditions following reconstruction 
and reclamation (Allen 1988). For example, in 
Nevada shallow-rooted low sagebrush 
(Artemisia arbuscula), which grows on sites 
with shallow soils to bedrock or hardpan, would 
give way to big sagebrush (Artemisia 
tridentata), where the reconstructed surface 
now consists of topsoil over a reclaimed waste 
rock dump. (See the previous discussion on 
soils.) 

BLM must consult with the Fish and 
Wildlife Service when any mining it authorizes 
might (1) affect a listed species or its 
designated critical habitat, or (2) is likely to 
jeopardize proposed species or adversely 
modify its proposed critical habitat. The effects 
of mining are weighed against biological and 
environmental considerations specific to these 
species. If the net effect is so damaging to the 
species that the action is likely to jeopardize the 
species' existence in the wild or adversely 
modify critical habitat designated for it, the 
Fish and Wildlife Services renders a "jeopardy" 
or "adverse modification" opinion. The Fish 
and Wildlife Service and BLM then seek 
alternatives or project modifications that relieve 
such jeopardy or adverse modification. 



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Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Alternative 1: No Action 

Under the existing regulations, revegetation 
is expected to continue to evolve toward a 
greater use of native species with a more equal 
composition of forbs, shrubs, and trees relative 
to grasses. The existing regulations would 
continue to emphasize surface stabilization and 
erosion control over establishing preexisting 
plant communities. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Except for small disturbances, all the states 
in the study area have some form of program in 
place for reclaiming mining disturbance. For 
activities involving less than 3 to 5 acres of 
surface disturbance, states like Arizona, Alaska, 
Montana, Nevada, and Washington do not 
require operators to notify state authorities of 
surface-disturbing activities or reclamation. 
Even though reclamation is required, without 
oversite, some of these small projects would not 
receive the same level of revegetation as they 
might under the existing regulations where 
notification is required. 

State requirements for revegetation are 
similar to BLM's existing 3809 regulations, but 
state agencies in general are usually staffed at 
much lower levels and lack their federal 
counterpart's resources in administering the 
mine reclamation program. State agencies are 
usually located in one central place in contrast 
to BLM, which has field offices spread 
throughout the state nearer the mining activities 
and public lands they manage. BLM offices 
also have reclamation specialists, soil scientists, 
wildlife biologists, and range conservationists 
whose expertise and advice would help to 
ensure that revegetation consists of a diverse 
mix adapted to the site. For these reasons, the 
state's reduced oversite may result in a lower 
revegetation success under Alternative 2 than 
under the existing regulations or proposed 
alternatives. 

Under the State Management Alternative 
weed control would depend on state and local 
efforts. The lack of a comprehensive policy 
would likely increase the potential for 
infestations. 



Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Alternative 3 requires that vegetation on 
reclaimed areas be long lasting, self-sustaining, 
and comparable in diversity and density to the 
preexisting natural vegetation. Alternative 3 
also stresses the use of native plants in 
reclaiming mine disturbances. These 
requirements would impose a more specific and 
demanding reclamation goal than the existing 
regulations and result in revegetation closer to 
the plant communities that existed on the site 
before mining. 

Alternative 3 requires the use of 
replacement growth media where low-quality 
topsoil would limit plant growth. Such use 
would tend to increase the amount of vegetation 
(biomass) and diversity of plants that could be 
established and grown on a reclaimed site over 
that of the existing regulations, which do not 
specifically address replacement growth media. 

The proposed regulations would require 
that reasonable steps be taken to minimize the 
introduction of noxious weeds and limit 
existing infestations. The existing regulations 
do not specifically address noxious weed 
control. Therefore, Alternative 3 should lead to 
better weed control, and controlling noxious 
weeds is an important measure in promoting the 
establishment of a productive and desirable 
postmining plant community. 

Under the proposed regulations, all mining 
and milling projects would require a Plan of 
Operations, resulting in a more formal review 
and approval of activities. This added planning 
should promote better revegetation compared to 
the existing regulations. In addition, all mining 
and milling operations would therefore be a 
federal action and subject to consultation under 
section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, 
resulting in a decrease in the likelihood of a 
taking of an endangered or threatened species. 

Under Alternative 3, BLM would have 
more discretion compared to the existing 
regulations on the types of impacts operators 
may cause. The BLM could prohibit operations 
that would cause substantial irreparable harm to 
significant resources if this harm could not be 
mitigated. Given this provision, Alternative 3 



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Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



would help to maintain population levels of 
threatened and endangered wildlife species at 
their current levels. 

The Proposed Action would require 
reclamation bonds for all Notices. This 
financial assurance should prompt better 
compliance by the operator than would the 
existing regulations in reclaiming and 
revegetating the site. Moreover, should the 
operator default, BLM would have funds to 
reclaim the site. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would require that vegetation 
on reclaimed areas be long lasting, self- 
sustaining, and comparable in diversity and 
density to the preexisting natural vegetation, 
and achieve 90% of the canopy cover of 
adjacent, undisturbed lands. Alternative 4 would 
also require that only native plants be used for 
revegetation. These requirements would impose 
a more specific and demanding reclamation 
goal than the existing regulations and result in 
revegetation closer to the plant communities 
that existed on the site before mining. 

Alternative 4 would also require that the 
subsurface soil be salvaged to help restore more 
of the original soil profile than required by the 
existing regulations. Restoring more of the soil 
profile would also promote reestablishing 
vegetation closer to the plant communities that 
existed on the site before mining. 

Alternative 4 would require that operators 
prevent the introducing of noxious weeds and 
eliminate any existing infestations. The existing 
regulations do not specifically address noxious 
weed control. Therefore, Alternative 4 should 
lead to better weed control, which is an 
important measure in promoting the 
establishment of a productive and desirable 
postmining plant community. 

Under Alternative 4, Notices would be 
eliminated and all projects except casual use 
would require a Plan of Operations. This would 
result in a more formal review and approval of 
activities. The added planning should promote 
better revegetation compared to the existing 



regulations. In addition, all mining and milling 
operations would therefore be a federal action 
and subject to consultation under section 7 of 
the Endangered Species Act, resulting in a 
decrease in the likelihood of a taking of an 
endangered or threatened species. 

Alternative 4 would reduce or avoid the 
injury and mortality of BLM- and state-listed 
sensitive plant species by requiring that these 
species be treated as threatened and endangered 
under the Endangered Species Act. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5, all mining projects 
would require a Plan of Operations, resulting in 
a more formal review and approval of activities. 
This requirement should result in better 
revegetation and a more desirable postmining 
plant community. In comparison, Notices are 
acceptable under the existing regulations for 
projects disturbing less than 5 acres. Notices are 
not subject to agency approval and may proceed 
15 calendar days after submittal. This time 
frame sometimes leaves inadequate time to 
identify resources, evaluate impacts, and seek 
changes from the operator when needed to 
avoid or minimize impacts. 

Compared to the existing regulations, the 
bonding required by Alternative 5 should 
prompt better compliance by operators with 
reclamation measures, including revegetation of 
sites. Should an operator default, BLM would 
have funds to reclaim the site. BLM does not 
have such funds under the existing regulations. 

Cumulative and Residual Impacts 
to Vegetation Resources 

An estimated 214,000 acres of public lands 
were disturbed by exploration and mining in the 
first 18 years after the 3809 regulations went 
into effect in 1981. Projections for mineral 
activities over the next 20 years show that 
mineral operations under the existing 
regulations and alternatives would disturb as 
much as 183,000 more acres. The total surface 
disturbance on vegetation from past and 
reasonably foreseeable mineral activities over 



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Chapter } - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



the final EIS period, therefore, would equal as 
much as 400,000 acres. This amount represents 
about 0.12% of the total acreage of public lands 
and Stock Raising Homestead Act lands 
administered by BLM within the study area (see 
Table 3-1). The cumulative impact from mining 
and exploration on vegetation within the study 
area is therefore limited. 

Residual impacts on vegetation would 
affect the 400,000 acres disturbed by mineral 
activities. As discussed in the proceeding 
section on soil resources, mining changes the 
original soil profile, which ordinarily requires 
hundreds to tens of thousands of years to 
develop. Mining might therefore yield soil 
substrates that greatly differ from what was 
there before mining. These differing substrates 
might affect the rate of succession or 
completely alter it. Different trajectories of 
succession are therefore possible, and this 
altered succession represents a loss of plant 
communities that existed on the site before 
mining. Alternative 4 would require more of the 
soil profile to be salvaged than would the other 
alternatives, resulting in a better chance of 
establishing similar substrates able to support 
vegetation that existed on a site before mining. 

Riparian- Wetland 
Resources 

Affected Environment 

BLM manages 181,000 miles of stream and 
lake shore riparian habitat and 13 million acres 
of wetlands consisting of swamps, bogs, 
marshes, muskegs, and wet meadows (Table 3- 
23). Even though this ecotype represents only 
5% of the land BLM manages, it consists of 
some of the most productive habitat on BLM- 
managed land. These valuable riparian-wetlands 
are not protected under one comprehensive 
national wetland law. Rather, federal statutes 
regulating or otherwise protecting wetlands 
have evolved piecemeal over the years and 
often use laws intended for other purposes 
(GAO 1991b). 



Definitions used by agencies to determine 
regulatory jurisdiction over riparian-wetland 
areas are as variable as the classifications of 
riparian-wetland areas themselves (Cowardin 
and others 1979). The U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers and BLM use the two definitions 
described below for managing wetlands on 
BLM-administered lands. 

Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 
1972 to maintain and restore the chemical, 
physical, and biological integrity of the waters 
of the United States. Section 404 of the Clean 
Water Act authorizes the Secretary of the Army 
to issue permits for the discharge of dredged or 
fill material into the waters of the United States, 
including wetlands. During 1987 the Army 
Corps of Engineers established the guidelines 
and methods for determining whether an area is 
a wetland (jurisdictional) for the purposes of 
permitting and enforcing Section 404. The 
Army Corps of Engineers and the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
defined "wetland" as follows: 

Those areas that are inundated or 
saturated by surface or ground water 
(hydrology) at a frequency and duration 
sufficient to support, and that under normal 
circumstances do support, a prevalence of 
vegetation (hydrophytes) typically adapted 
for life in saturated soil conditions (hydric 
soils). Wetlands generally include swamps, 
marshes, bogs, and similar areas (40 CFR 
232.2(r), Environmental Laboratory 1987). 

Jurisdictional wetlands-those regulated by 
the Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 
of the Clean Water Act-must exhibit all three 
characteristics: hydrophytes, hydric soils, and 
hydrology. The prevalent vegetation must 
consist of hydrophytic species, meaning species 
that can grow, effectively compete, reproduce, 
and/or persist in anaerobic soil conditions. 
Hydric soils must be present, or the soils must 
have characteristics of reducing soil conditions. 
Last, the area must be inundated either 
permanently or periodically at mean water 



194 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



depths not exceeding 6.6 feet, or the soil must 
be saturated to the surface at some time during 
the growing season of the prevalent vegetation 
(Environmental Laboratory 1987). 



During 1991 BLM developed its Riparian- 
Wetland Initiative for the J990's (BLM 1991b) 
to provide a strategy for managing and restoring 
riparian-wetland areas on BLM lands. BLM 



Table 3-23. Condition of BLM-Managed Riparian-Wetland Areas by State 


State 


Habitat Type 


Proper 
Functioning 


% 


Functional 
at Risk 


% 


Non 
Functional 


% 


Unknown 


% 


Total 


AK 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


132,023 
12,376,200 


91 
98 


35 
unknown 


<1 


812 
unknown 


1 


11,434 
188,800 


8 
2 


144,304 
12,565,000 


AZ 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


308 
85 


34 
<1 


410 
17,949 


46 
82 


22 
3,027 


2 

14 


153 
838 


17 
4 


893 

21,899 


CA 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


1,865 
11,273 


52 
85 


1,199 
10,571 


33 
12 


101 
413 


3 
<1 


425 
237 


12 
3 


3,590 
22,494 


CO 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


2,119 
4,986 


47 
67 


1,535 
707 


34 
9 


762 
3 


17 
<1 


53 
1,780 


1 
24 


4,469 
7,476 


ES* 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


























010 
4,300 


100 
100 


10 
4,300 


ID 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


1,377 
1,361 


37 
10 


1,462 
1,324 


39 
10 


379 
248 


10 
2 


536 
10,200 


14 
78 


3,754 
13,133 


MT 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


2,048 
4,444 


42 

7 


2,225 
693 


46 
1 


523 
859 


11 
1 


57 
56,518 


1 
91 


4,853 
62,514 


NV 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


660 
8,821 


27 
26 


1,127 
1,712 


46 

5 


392 
4,098 


16 
12 


268 
19,566 


11 
57 


2,447 
34,197 


NM 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


160 
1,663 


35 
30 


218 
10 


48 
<1 


72 
776 


16 
14 


4 
3,114 


1 
56 


454 
5,563 


OR 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


2,678 
126,808 


40 
86 


3,240 
3,521 


48 
2 


270 
478 


4 
1 


557 
15,896 


8 

11 


6,745 
146,703 


UT 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


1,798 
5,047 


38 
36 


1,483 
3,456 


31 
24 


388 

470 


8 

3 


1,053 
5,207 


22 
36 


4,722 
14,180 


WY 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


1,528 
4,236 


32 

21 


2,476 
5,463 


51 
27 


649 
345 


13 
2 


177 
10,235 


4 
50 


4,830 
20,279 


Total 
Lower 48 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


14,541 
168,724 


40 
48 


15,375 
45,406 


42 
13 


3,558 
10,717 


10 
3 


3,293 
127,891 


9 
36 


36,767 
352,738 


Total BLM 


Riparian (mi) 
Wetland (ac) 


146,564 
12,544,924 


81 
97 


15,410 
45,406 


9 
<1 


4,370 
10,717 


2 
<1 


14,727 
316,691 


11 
3 


181,071 
12,917,738 


"Eastern States. Source: Public Land Statistics 1999 (BLM 2000a) 



195 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Manual 1737, Riparian- Wetland Area 
Management, defines riparian-wetland areas as 
follows: 

A form of wetland transition between 
permanently saturated wetlands and upland 
areas. These areas exhibit vegetation or 
physical characteristics reflective of 
permanent surface or subsurface water 
influence. Lands along, adjacent to, or 
contiguous with perennially and 
intermittently flowing rivers and streams, 
glacial potholes, and the shores of lakes 
and reservoirs with stable water levels are 
typical riparian areas. Excluded are such 
sites as ephemeral streams or washes that 
do not exhibit the presence of vegetation 
dependent upon free water in the soil. 

The Army Corps of Engineers does not 
regulate all areas that BLM considers riparian- 
wetland. The Corps' regulatory jurisdiction 
applies only to wetlands that have all three 
attributes: hydrophytes, hydric soils, and 
hydrology. BLM recognizes areas exhibiting 
any one of these attributes (hydrophytic 
vegetation) as riparian-wetland areas. 

Proper Functioning Condition 

One of the chief goals of BLM's Riparian- 
Wetland Initiative is to restore and maintain 
riparian- wetland areas in proper functioning 
condition. Proper functioning condition for 
riparian-wetland areas is defined in BLM 
Technical Reference 1737-9 (BLM 1995a): 

Riparian-Wetland areas are functioning 
in proper condition when adequate 
vegetation, landform, or large woody 
debris is present to dissipate stream energy 
associated with high waterflows, thereby 
reducing erosion and improving water 
quality; filter sediments, capture bedload, 
and aid floodplain development; improve 
flood-water retention and ground water 
recharge; develop root masses that stabilize 



stream banks against cutting action; and 
develop diverse ponding and channel 
characteristics are created to provide the 
habitat and the water depth, duration, and 
temperature necessary for fish production, 
waterfowl breeding, and other uses; and 
support greater biodiversity. The 
functioning condition of riparian-wetland 
areas is a result of interaction among 
geology, soil, water, and vegetation. 

Riparian-wetland areas that are not 
functioning properly are rated as functional at 
risk or nonfunctional. Functional at risk areas 
are in functional condition, but an existing soil, 
water, or vegetation condition makes them 
susceptible to degradation. Nonfunctional areas 
are clearly not providing adequate vegetation, 
landform, or large woody debris to dissipate the 
stream energy of high flows and thus are not 
reducing erosion, improving water quality, and 
performing the other functions listed above. The 
absence of certain physical attributes, such as, a 
lack of floodplain, are indicators of 
nonfunctioning condition. Table 3-23 shows the 
functional status of riparian-wetlands by state. 

Riparian- Wetland Functions 

The capability and potential of any riparian- 
wetland area is dictated by the interactions of 
water, soils/landforms, and vegetation. These 
interactions depend largely on the climatic 
extent and frequency of flooding and drought. 
Water that infiltrates into floodplains of lotic 
(streams, springs) systems during periods of 
high flow returns to the channel during periods 
of low flow, contributing a cool source of 
summer base flow for many streams, especially 
in low-elevation alluvial valleys. Seasonal 
inundation of the floodplain also reduces water 
velocities during flooding and helps reduce 
downstream flood peaks. Both of these factors 
reduce the risk of channel erosion. Lentic 
riparian-wetland areas (bogs, marshes, swamps) 
also perform many of the same functions: 



196 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Detaining storm runoff. 

• Reducing flow peaks and erosion potential. 

• Retaining and filtering sediment. 

• Augmenting ground water recharge by storing 
water and releasing it more slowly, later into 
the dry season. 

Riparian-wetland vegetation plays a critical 
role in many physical processes within all 
riparian- wetland areas. This vegetation 
promotes streambank stability and contributes 
organic matter and large woody material to 
riparian-wetland areas. Densely vegetated 
riparian-wetland areas buffer the input of 
sediment and toxic chemicals from runoff 
generated on adjacent lands. Riparian-wetland 
vegetation also aids in aquifer recharge and in 
floodplain development by trapping sediment 
(Gregory and others 1991; Henjum and others 
1994; Hicks and others 1991 ; Kovalchik and 
Elmore 1992; Sedell and others 1990). 

The Role of Riparian- Wetlands 
Areas as Habitat 

Riparian-wetland areas contain the most 
biologically diverse habitats on BLM-managed 
lands because of their closeness to water bodies 
and because they provide a variety of structural 
features, including live and dead vegetation. 
These areas are valuable to wildlife for food, 
cover, and water, and provide the following: 

• Important habitat for about 80% of our 
wildlife species. 

• Nesting and brooding habitat for birds. 

• Thermal cover and favorable microclimates 
because of their shade, increased humidity 
and air movement, and higher rate of 
transpiration. 

Common deciduous trees and shrubs such 
as cottonwood, alder, and willow are important 
food sources for deer, elk, moose, hares, 
rabbits, voles, and other animals. 

Riparian-wetlands also perform the 
following functions: 



• Serve as big game migration routes between 
summer and winter ranges. 

• Provide travel corridors between habitat types 
for many species, including carnivores, birds, 
bats, and small mammals. 

• Play an essential role within landscapes as 
corridors for the dispersal of plants. 

More bird species use these areas than any 
other habitat type. Many neotropical migratory 
birds use these areas exclusively or in 
combination with only one other habitat type. 
In the Interior Columbia River Basin, 64% of 
neotropical migratory land birds depend on 
riparian-wetland vegetation during the breeding 
season. This habitat may harbor from 2 to 10 
times as many birds as does adjacent, 
nonriparian-wetland vegetation (Partners in 
Flight 1998). 

Riparian-wetland vegetation directly 
influences the condition, quality, and 
maintenance of aquatic habitat. The complexity, 
hydraulic resistance, and stability given by 
riparian vegetation to streams often affect the 
size, shape, and distribution of channel features 
such as pools, riffles, and undercut banks 
(Sedell and Beschta 1991). Streamside 
vegetation moderates water temperatures 
throughout the year by creating shade in the 
summer and providing insulation in the winter. 
The sediment and chemical filtering function of 
riparian-wetland vegetation helps maintain high 
water quality required by many aquatic 
organisms. 

Riparian-wetland vegetation also alters the 
relatively simple chemistry of nutrient 
production and transport into a complex array 
of storage locations, transformations, and 
nutrient spirals (Gregory and others 1987; Pinay 
and others 1990). In addition, riparian-wetland 
vegetation helps to maintain the hydrologic 
connectivity between main-stem stream 
channels and smaller side channels and 
hyporheic zones (Stanford and Ward 1988; 
Gilbert and others 1990). 



197 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Status of Riparian- Wetland Areas 

Over the past 100 to 150 years, riparian 
areas and wetlands have been subject to 
increasingly concentrated and competing 
resource demands, including the following: 

• Water withdrawal. 

• Mineral, sand, and gravel extraction. 

• Human settlement. 

• Farming and timber harvesting. 

• Livestock and wildlife use. 

• Recreation. 

Many riparian-wetlands have been drained, 
filled, or sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. 

Additionally, riparian-wetland areas have 
been affected by the invasion of nonnative 
plants and introduced aquatic and terrestrial 
species (bullfrogs, nutria). On many sites these 
nonnative species have become well 
established, commonly replacing native species 
or exerting large influences on native habitats. 
As a result, many riparian areas and wetlands 
are greatly altered from conditions noted by 
explorers in the early 1800s. Riparian-wetland 
systems are responsive and dynamic. When 
modified, they can significantly affect adjacent 
aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. 

Broad-scaled trends generally show that 
riparian-wetland areas have been reduced in 
abundance and that habitat fragmentation has 
significantly increased. In some regions of the 
country 95% of the riparian-wetlands 
historically present are gone. According to 
BLM (1998c), 58% of all flowing-water areas 
that have been assessed are either nonfunctional 
or functional at risk, whereas 26% of all 
standing-water areas were assessed as 
nonfunctional or functional at risk. BLM 
reported that from 1981 to 1997 a total of 
20, 1 27 acres of riparian- wetland habitat were 
lost or degraded by placer mining alone. 

Other types of mining also affect riparian- 
wetland areas but to a lesser degree. For 
example, riparian-wetland disturbance estimates 
in the Zortman-Landusky Mine EIS suggest that 
from 1 % to 2% of the total land affected by 



open pit mining may be riparian areas or 
wetlands (BLM and Montana Dept. of 
Environmental Quality 1996). Some of the 
mining since 1981, particularly placer mining, 
has taken place on lands previously or 
historically mined. Previously disturbed 
riparian- wetland areas are in various states of 
recovery. Most of these areas would be 
classified as nonfunctional or functional at risk. 

Effects of Mining on Riparian- 
Wetland Systems 

Natural riparian-wetlands systems have 
evolved over tens, hundreds, and thousands of 
years. It may take 2 to 3 years for herbaceous 
riparian-wetlands to become structurally 
established. Fifteen years may be needed for a 
carefully managed forested riparian-wetland 
area to achieve canopy closure and to begin to 
look and function like a natural forested system. 
And decades to centuries may pass before the 
area approximates the structure and function for 
the habitat it was intended to duplicate (North 
Carolina State University 1998; BLM and 
Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality 1996; 
BLM 1988a). 

Loss of Vegetation and Vegetative 
Function. Mineral activities, placer operations 
in particular, lead to a loss of riparian-wetland 
vegetation. Operations remove all vegetation 
within the active mining area before and during 
mine development and operation. Vegetation 
next to the mining area may be affected by 
roads, water diversions, or other development. 

Riparian-wetland vegetation significantly 
influences the stability of uplands and certain 
stream types. Changes in the composition, 
vigor, and density of riparian vegetation can 
result in changes in the following: 

• Sediment input from uplands. 

• Stream shade. 

• Protection from instream erosional processes. 

• Terrestrial insect habitat. 

• Contribution of detritus and structural 
components to the stream channel. 



198 



Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Disturbance to riparian-wetlands also 
affects water quality and esthetic values 
(Rosgen 1996). 

Nonnative Species. One of the most 
pervasive and ecologically damaging effects of 
human activities is widespread movement of 
species beyond their natural range. In North 
America, hundreds of exotic (or nonnative) 
plants have become established in aquatic 
habitats during this century (Ricciardi and 
Rasmussen 1998). Typically, only a small 
proportion of introduced species cause 
significant impacts. But some of these species 
have had enormous ecological impacts (Schmitz 
and Simberloff 1997). Nationwide, nonnative 
species have been implicated in the decline of 
42% of species listed under the Endangered 
Species Act. 

The ability of nonnative species to spread 
rapidly and out compete native plants is of 
concern because weeds can render land unfit or 
greatly limit beneficial uses of the land. Human 
disturbance of wetland systems by activities 
such as mining creates conditions that may 
encourage the spread of invasive species. 
Wetland creation or restoration projects that 
include nonnative species can contribute to the 
problem by promoting their spread faster than 
through natural dispersal. Although wetlands 
that are reclaimed with or invaded by nonnative 
vegetation appear to be healthy, they have little 
or no value for biodiversity (Flack and Benton 
1998). 

Furthermore, some introduced species can 
alter riparian-wetland ecosystems processes and 
functions. Others may change the structure and 
composition of natural communities. Many 
riparian-wetland invaders alter the hydrologic 
dynamics, fire regimes, nutrient cycling, soil 
chemistry, or sedimentation rates in systems 
where they occur (Flack and Benton 1998). 

Some species such as tamarisk (saltcedar) 
can seriously alter hydrological regimes. 
Tamarisk is a deep-rooted plant that transpires 
water at a much higher rate than native riparian- 
wetland species. As a result, tamarisk can 



greatly lower the water table. Tamarisk also 
promotes flooding by blocking water channels. 

Spotted knapweed and yellow star thistle 
are two of many weeds that can infest a variety 
of habitat types, including hydric sites. Both of 
these weeds are highly competitive and easily 
invade disturbed lands or deteriorated sites. 
These deep-rooted weeds and can out compete 
native species with shallow roots, thereby 
creating weed monocultures. Spotted knapweed 
can inhibit the growth of surrounding 
vegetation by exuding toxins through its roots 
and leaves. As these weeds out compete the 
native species, the amount of bare ground 
increases. Increased bare ground can lead to 
problems with streambank stability and 
increased sedimentation, especially during peak 
flows (Williams 1997b; Elmore and Leonard 
1998). Healthy riparian- wetland systems may 
out compete nonnative weed invasions and also 
inhibit the dissemination of weed seeds through 
filtering capabilities. 

Erosion, Sedimentation, and Altered 
Stream Channel Morphology. Mining 
accelerates sediment production. Because of the 
large area of land disturbed by mining and the 
large amounts of earthen materials exposed at 
sites, erosion can be a major concern at mining 
sites. Erosion may cause significant loadings of 
sediments to nearby water bodies and riparian- 
wetland areas, especially during severe storms 
and high snow melt periods. Placer mining 
degrades or destroys channel features, 
increasing erosion and sedimentation. Fine 
sediment from erosion can clog wetland 
vegetation and impair the wetland's water- 
holding capacity. Excessive sediment loading 
can cause channel aggradation and further 
accelerate bank instability (Elmore and Leonard 
1998). 

In streams with hard bottoms, accelerated 
runoff can result in destructive lateral erosion of 
streambanks and progressively wider and 
shallower stream channels. In streams with soft 
bottoms, accelerated runoff can trigger 
downcutting, which has the following effects: 



199 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Lowers the streambed and water table. 

• Dries out riparian areas. 

• Destabilizes streambanks. 

• Increases erosion. 

• Further accelerates runoff. 

Unless stopped by some form of 
intervention or a hard geologic formation, 
downcutting will migrate upstream and 
eventually disrupt the hydrologic functioning of 
the entire watershed (Chaney and others 1993). 

Surface erosion, which occurs in denuded 
areas, is a major contributor to sedimentation in 
rivers. An example of how surface erosion can 
introduce sediment into rivers was 
demonstrated by a New Mexico study that 
found the following: 

• Surface erosion produced 13,600 tons per 
square mile per year. 

• Gully erosion contributed 200 tons. 

• Mass movement involved 90 tons (Leopold 
1994). 

Stream channels become unstable when 
excessive sediment deposition leads to 
destructive lateral erosion of streambank and 
progressively wider and shallower stream 
channels. 

Stream channels are commonly relocated 
into bypass channels during placer operations. 
Alterations of channel morphology result in 
three possible outcomes: 

• Moving the main water flow from a natural 
channel to an upland soil and associated 
vegetation can result in either vertical or 
lateral instability depending on the soil type 
and underlying geology. 

• Stream channel relocation often results in the 
straightening or decreasing of the total 
channel length. This decrease in length 
increases the gradient and energy, resulting in 
incision. Downcutting from such an incision 
can progress far above the disturbed area 
with the resulting sediments affecting stream 
morphology far downstream. 

• Sediment overloading from direct inputs such 
as waste rock, overburden, and tailings piles; 



dams; roads; and newly reclaimed areas can 
cause channel aggradation from increased 
bedload. Channel aggradation increases 
stream energy on banks and can start lateral 
instability and further sedimentation. In 
addition, increased velocities and volume of 
runoff can lead to downstream flooding, 
scouring of stream channels, and a loss of 
streamside riparian vegetation (Elmore and 
Leonard 1998). 

Pollution. Mining can release pollutants to 
surface and ground water, result in the 
depositing of contaminants into soils, and 
eventually lead to incorporating pollutants into 
plant tissue. Both water and soil contamination 
may harm riparian-wetland vegetation. Studies 
have shown a general relationship between 
concentrations of metals in soils and in plants 
(Mullen 1994; Lipton and others 1993). 

Total metal accumulation by plants from 
soil depends on many factors, including 

• The nature of the plants, species, growth rate, 
root size and depth, transpiration rate, and 
nutritional requirements. 

• Soil factors such as pH, organic matter 
content and nature, nutrient status, amount of 
metal sulfides, and clay content and type. 

• Environmental and management variables 
such as temperature, moisture, sunlight, and 
amendments and fertilization. 

• Modes of metal toxicity and plant tolerance 
(Overcash and Pal 1979). 

General effects of metal accumulation in 
plants include stunted growth of roots and tops, 
browning of leaves, interveinal chlorosis, 
wilting of the leaves, and red or brown spots on 
the leaves. But each case of plant phytotoxicity 
is different, and many plants may show no 
visible signs of injury (BLM and Montana 
Dept. of Environmental Quality 1996). 

Naturally occurring substances in the ore 
may create a major source of pollutants. Mined 
ore contains not only the mineral being 
extracted but varying concentrations of a wide 
range of other minerals. Often other minerals 
may be present at much higher concentrations 



200 



Chapter J - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



and can be much more mobile than the target 
mineral. Depending on the local geology, the 
ore and the surrounding waste rock and 
overburden can include trace levels of 
aluminum, arsenic, asbestos, cadmium, 
chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, 
mercury, nickel, silver, selenium, and zinc, as 
well as naturally occurring radioactive 
materials. 

Ground Water Drawdown. Ground water 
drawdown and associated impacts to surface 
waters and nearby wetlands can be a serious 
concern in some areas, particularly in the Carlin 
Trend of northeast Nevada. Several Carlin 
Trend gold mines are dewatering open pits. 
Over the last decade, these large mines have 
placed new and increased demands on water 
resources within the Humboldt River Basin. 
Currently, 14 large-scale and many smaller 
open pit gold mines are active in the basin. 
Large volumes of ground water are being 
pumped for pit dewatering, milling, and other 
activities. 

The Nevada Engineer's Office established 
four acceptable methods of disposing of ground 
water: reinjection, storage in infiltration 
reservoirs, irrigation for agriculture, and 
discharge into surface channels. As of 1998, 
about 65% of the water pumped for dewatering 
was being discharged into tributaries of the 
Humboldt River, almost doubling the average 
annual flow of the river. This increased flow 
has altered natural channel morphology and 
flow characteristics, created temporary 
wetlands, and caused local flooding. 

But some benefits are being realized from 
the discharge of the pumped water in natural 
water courses, including increases in water for 
agricultural irrigation and developing of sport 
fisheries in storage reservoirs. As gold mining 
operations cease (estimated at 15-20 years), 
water flows in the Humboldt River basin will 
be reduced to a level below premining levels. 
The abandoned open mine pits will fill up with 
water from the surrounding water tables. Water 
supplies in the basin are predicted to be 
insufficient for user demands, wildlife and 
fisheries needs, and maintenance of 
riparian/wetland areas such as the terminal 



wetlands in the Humboldt Wildlife Management 
Area. The impacts of ground water drawdown 
could last for many decades. 

Mitigation. The most common mitigation 
applied to mine-related loss or disturbance is to 
create replacement riparian- wetland areas. 
Small- and large-scale mitigation can be 
successful and have positive ecological benefits 
for an area. When properly designed and 
maintained, the new riparian-wetland areas will 
eventually emulate natural systems. Although 
mitigation ideally provides a mechanism for 
both development and the protection of 
riparian-wetland functions, the uncertainty of 
creating riparian-wetlands has been a subject of 
concern (Reutter and Brinckerhoff 1998). 

Regulatory and Enforcement Concerns. 
Street (1998), Reutter and Brinckerhoff (1998), 
and Sibbing (1997) discussed a number of 
problems in the mitigation process. First, few 
permitted riparian-wetland mitigation projects 
follow scientific designs. Instead, projects are 
often negotiated between the applicant and the 
regulatory agency with less site assessment or 
mitigation design than might be needed to 
guarantee success. Second, many mitigation 
projects fail for a lack of sustained hydrology. 
Poor planning and unexpected results of 
construction often lead to a change in ground or 
surface water supply to small, marginal-quality 
riparian- wetland areas. 

Permittees may often not build wetlands, 
may not build a large enough area, or may build 
riparian-wetland areas that otherwise do not 
comply with the design specified in their 
permit. Permitting agencies sometimes allow 
the substitution of unlike types of riparian- 
wetlands in mitigation or require less-than- 
equal amounts of mitigation. Constructed 
riparian-wetland areas often do not function as 
expected. Finally, agency compliance 
monitoring is often inconsistent or cursory for 
key components and does not consist of 
detailed studies to evaluate wetland function. 

Functional Replacement Concerns. A 
significant problem noted in mitigation 
compliance surveys is that, although complex 
wetlands may be affected, mitigation programs 
often create different, simpler riparian-wetland 



201 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



types. For example, some agencies lean toward 
building deeper and open water systems. This 
type of out-of-kind creation or restoration 
ignores the unique values of drier end areas, 
including their role in flood water storage, 
habitat for reptiles and amphibians, food 
sources for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, 
and water quality improvement. Also ignored is 
that many nonregulatory wetland incentive 
programs target restoration of these same kinds 
of emergent wetlands, slighting drier end 
wetlands (Sibbing 1997). But out-of-kind 
mitigation can be beneficial if the wetland is 
dysfunctional to begin with. 

Wetland functions may take many years to 
develop. Wooded wetlands, in particular, take a 
long time to become established because trees 
and shrubs need time to grow. Street (1998) 
found that a 5-year monitoring program was 
inadequate for assessing the effectiveness of a 
mitigation prescription in a wooded area. The 
mitigation sites examined in the study had 
begun to exhibit some wetland functions, but 
many years would be needed to see the ultimate 
functions provided by the sites. 

The methodologies used in building 
mitigation sites might result in failure. 
Typically, construction of riparian- wetland areas 
includes excavating large amounts of soils to 
reach the level of seasonal-high ground water 
table. Construction commonly strips off the 
developed soil profile and topsoil and exposes 
the underlying subsoil of parent material. 
Although the organic matter is added to or 
stockpiled, little organic material remains for 
later incorporation. With little soil organic 
matter, it becomes more difficult for wetlands 
to remove nutrients from the ground and 
surface water. As a result, soils less likely to 
support vegetation that will filter nutrients, 
sediments, and pollutants. Additionally, the 
ability of mitigation projects to compensate for 
lost functions would be limited by the 
hydrogeomorphic characteristics of a site 
(Street 1998). 

Location-Dependent Functions. Many of 
the functions and values of a particular riparian- 
wetland area are site specific. For this reason an 
agreement between the Army Corps of 



Engineers and EPA in 1990 determined that on- 
site mitigation would be used when possible. If 
on-site mitigation is not possible, mitigation 
should occur nearby and within the same 
watershed. Only in the absence of other options 
should mitigation occur outside the watershed 
of the affected wetland. Functions tied to 
landscape position include aspects of water 
storage and attenuation, species habitat, and 
nutrient cycling. 

Temporal Replacement of Functions. The 
standard practice of constructing mitigation 
areas concurrently with conducting permitted 
wetland impacts results in temporal loss of 
wetland functions while the newly created areas 
become established, a process that can take 
years, even under favorable conditions. Projects 
may pay little regard to short-term riparian- 
wetland function. Many regulatory programs do 
not even try to offset this temporal loss of 
function (Reutter and Brinckerhoff 1998). 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

The nature of impacts, as discussed above, 
would be similar for all alternatives where 
disturbance is unavoidable in accessing and 
extracting minerals from an ore body. In 
summary, loss and degradation of riparian- 
wetland areas might result from the following: 

• Direct removal (stripping) of vegetation and 
loss of vegetative function. 

• Increased erosion and sedimentation. 

• Water and soil contamination. 

• Ground water drawdown. 

The level of mitigation required by each of 
the alternatives would help offset disturbance as 
discussed below. 

Under all five alternatives impacts to 
jurisdictional wetlands would be mitigated 
according to Section 404 of the Clean Water 
Act and administered by the Army Corps of 
Engineers with oversight from EPA. State 



202 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



mitigation might also help offset wetland loss in 
states requiring wetland mitigation. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Alternative 1 has no requirement to avoid 
disturbance or mitigate impacts to 
nonjurisdictional riparian-wetland habitat. But 
BLM generally mitigates impacts to riparian- 
wetland areas as a part of fish and wildlife 
rehabilitation or with water quality 
improvements. One of the goals of BLM's 
riparian-wetland policy is to restore or maintain 
riparian-wetland areas in proper functioning 
condition. But mitigation would not necessarily 
do the following: 

• Be conducted on an acre-disturbed-per-acre- 
restored basis. 

• Provide for scientifically designed restoration 
based on site-specific riparian-wetland 
assessments. 

• Replace lost riparian-wetland function with a 
similarly functioning system in a timely 
manner. 

Many years or decades would be needed for 
newly created riparian-wetlands to function like 
the natural systems they are designed to 
replace. 

In addition, project mitigation usually 
would not consider the spatial distribution of 
natural riparian-wetland systems. Because water 
quality and fish and wildlife habitat parameters 
are more strongly correlated to riparian-wetland 
position than riparian-wetland extent (Pastor 
and Johnston 1992), the goal of attaining proper 
functioning condition may not be met. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Because mitigation would be required only 
for jurisdictional wetlands (and not riparian- 
wetlands meet BLM's but not the Army Corps 
of Engineers definition), riparian-wetlands 
would not be restored on a large portion of the 
disturbed riparian-wetland habitat. For example, 
Newmont Gold's South Operations project 
could disturb 1,342 acres of riparian- wetland 



(streambank) habitat, of which 64% is within 
the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers 
(EPA 1997). 

If jurisdictional wetlands make up 64% of 
the total affected riparian-wetland area, 
Alternative 2 could cause a long-term loss of 
36% more riparian-wetland areas than would 
Alternative 1 , except in states having standards 
addressing the postmining condition of fish and 
wildlife habitat. In these states, riparian- 
wetlands might indirectly benefit as a result of 
mitigation or rehabilitation required for fish and 
wildlife. For example, California recommends 
that wildlife habitat be restored to its premining 
condition (McElfish and others 1996). 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Disturbance to riparian-wetland habitat 
would likely be reduced in areas away from the 
ore body. Such areas would undergo less 
disturbance from construction of access, waste 
rock placement, tailings impoundments, and 
leaching facilities. Riparian-wetlands within the 
area of the ore body would likely be lost or 
degraded. Where disturbance is unavoidable, 
operators would be required to apply riparian- 
wetland mitigation. The weakness in the 
mitigation process would be that similarly 
functioning riparian-wetland areas would 
probably not be replaced in a timely manner or 
by similarly located riparian-wetlands. Many 
years or decades would be needed for newly 
created riparian-wetlands to function like the 
natural systems they are designed to replace. 

Under the Proposed Action all mining 
would require a Plan of Operations. BLM's 
ability to require baseline environmental 
information for Plan-level operations, such as 
detailed studies of riparian-wetland function, 
should help increase the success rate of 
riparian-wetland mitigation through improved 
design. Exploration disturbing less than 5 acres 
would be allowed under a Notice, but the 
bonding of Notice-level operations and the 
requirement to meet the performance standards 
to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation 
should greatly reduce disturbance or reduce 



203 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



long periods of nonfunctioning riparian- 
wetlands resulting from Notice-level operations 
in the past. 

Bonding requirements under the Proposed 
Action would not address unplanned events 
such as spills or facility failures or unforeseen 
changes to water supply or quality. Therefore, 
riparian- wetland resources might be exposed to 
these impacts without monetary support for 
corrective action. In areas having unusually 
high-value riparian-wetlands, or riparian- 
wetlands that support other species of 
significant value (e.g. endangered species), 
BLM might deny mining if operators could not 
suitably mitigate adverse impacts. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Under Alternative 4 impacts to riparian- 
wetland resources would generally be similar to 
those under the other alternatives. But the 
duration and extent of the impacts could be 
greatly reduced by the restoration time 
requirement. As under Alternative 3, Alternative 
4 would reduce disturbance to riparian-wetland 
habitat away from the immediate vicinity of the 
ore body. Riparian- wetlands within the area of 
the ore body would likely be lost or degraded. 

Where disturbance is unavoidable, riparian- 
wetlands would be restored or replaced to a 
proper functioning condition within 10 years of 
the completion of mining and at a rate of 1.5 
acres restored per 1 acre disturbed. The less- 
than-certain nature of mitigation would be 
somewhat offset by the following: 

• The time requirement for restoration. 

• The proper functioning condition standard. 

• The greater restoration-to-disturbance ratio 

• BLM's ability to require baseline 
environmental information, such as detailed 
studies of riparian-wetland function. 



Bonding under this alternative would cover 
unplanned events. As a result, financial 
guarantees would help correct situations in 
which unforseen events harm riparian-wetland 
resources. 

As under Alternative 3, Alternative 4 
incorporates the substantial irreparable harm 
standard into the definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation. In addition, Alternative 4 
would require that riparian-wetland areas be 
restored to proper functioning condition within 
10 years after mining ceases. In combination, 
these two elements of Alternative 4 would 
much better protect riparian- wetland areas than 
would the other alternatives. Under Alternative 
4 BLM could deny mining in riparian-wetland 
areas when mitigation is not predicted to meet 
the 10-year restoration requirement. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5, mining would require 
a Plan of Operations, and exploration disturbing 
less than 5 acres would require a Notice as 
under Alternative 3. Notice-level bonding under 
Alternative 5 would help ensure that 
performance standards are met, but bonding 
would not cover unplanned events that degrade 
riparian- wetland habitat. The definition of 
unnecessary or undue degradation under 
Alternative 5 would not include the substantial 
irreparable harm standard. Thus BLM could not 
deny mining in areas of high-value riparian- 
wetland habitat when disturbance could not be 
mitigated. 

Alternative 5 would slightly better protect 
riparian resources than would Alternative 1 
because of the new riparian performance 
standard. But Alternative 5's riparian 
performance standard would not include 
wetlands and would protect only the wetlands 
that meet the Army Corps of Engineers' 
jurisdictional standard. In addition, Alternative 



204 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



5 would not require restoring riparian-wetlands 
to proper functioning condition. 

Aquatic Resources 

Affected Environment 

The aquatic community consists of three 
main components: 

• Aquatic plants (phytoplankton, periphyton, 
and rooted vascular macrophytes), which fix 
energy from sunlight. 

• Bacteria and fungi, which decompose organic 
matter. 

• Consumers, including invertebrates and fish, 
which use energy from plants, bacteria, and 
fungi. 



The habitat requirements for fish include a 
healthy, functioning aquatic ecosystem 
consisting of all three community components, 
as well as the proper physical and chemical 
attributes. 

Aquatic Habitat and the Fish It 
Supports 

BLM manages 132,190 miles offish- 
bearing stream habitat, which includes 17,281 
miles of habitat used by anadromous species. In 
addition, BLM manages more than 2.9 million 
surface acres of lake and reservoir habitat 
(Table 3-24). 



Table 3-24. BLM-Managed Fisheries Habitat by State 


State 


Total Fish-bearing 
Stream Miles 


Anadromous 
Stream Miles 


Lake and Reservoir 
Surface Acres 


Alaska 


115,000 


15,145 


2,600,000 


Arizona 


700 





14,200 


California 


850 


220 


163,000 


Colorado 


1,900 





17,600 


Eastern States 


20 





3,620 


Idaho 


2,820 


314 


750 


Montana 


720 





6,670 


New Mexico 


260 





120 


Nevada 


1,400 





33,190 


Oregon/Washington 


3,200 


1,602 


32,770 


Utah 


3,390 





15,230 


Wyoming 


1,930 





6,430 


Totals 


132,190 


17,281 


2,893,580 


Source: BLM 1993, 1996a. 



205 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



This habitat ranges from high mountain 
lakes to reservoirs and from large rivers to 
small first- order tributaries. These aquatic 
systems occur in a wide variety of climatic and 
regional settings, ranging from the arid regions 
of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern 
California, to the more temperate streams of the 
Pacific Northwest and the arctic systems of 
Alaska. 



Table 3-25. BLM Aquatic Habitat Under 


or Proposed for Special 


Status 






Status 


Stream 


Surface Acres 




Miles 


of Lakes 


Areas of Critical Environmental 


3,200 


1,500 


Concern (ACEC) 






Wilderness Areas 


90 


NA 


National Conservation Areas 


1,600 


250 


Wild and Scenic Rivers 


1,100 


NA 


Wilderness Study Areas (43 CRR 3802) 


1,200 


5,600 


Proposed for Special Designation 


1,980 


860 


Total 


9,170 


8,210 


Source: BLM 1993 



Of the total aquatic habitat under BLM 
administration, 7% (9,170 miles) of the stream 
and 0.3% (8,210 acres) of the lake habitat are 
under or proposed for special status. The 
breakdown of the special status areas is shown 
in Table 3-25. 

To date, only about 3% of the stream 
habitat and 1% of the lake habitat under BLM 
management has been intensively inventoried 
for habitat condition, quantity, and trend, or had 
management objectives developed through 



habitat management plans, (BLM 1993; 1996a). 
Of the 1,700 miles of nonanadromous stream 
and 39,500 acres of lake habitat for which 
objectives have been developed, about half of 
the habitat meets the objectives (BLM 1993). 
About 33% (1,220 miles) of the anadromous 
stream habitat managed by BLM in California, 
Oregon, Washington, and Idaho is in optimal 
condition. The remainder is in fair to minimal 
condition. In Alaska 98% 
(14,800 miles) of the 
anadromous stream habitat 
under BLM management is 
considered to be in natural or 
near-natural condition, and 
2% (319 miles) is in fair to 
minimal condition (BLM 
1996a). 

BLM defines optimal, fair, 
and minimal aquatic habitat 
conditions as follows: 
Optimal aquatic habitat 
condition: watershed not 
greatly impacted. Riparian 
areas in near natural 
condition; abundant, diverse 
instream structure. Numerous 
deep, complex pools with 
cover. Substrate (gravels) 
relatively free of fine 
sediment. Stable streambanks and stream 
channels. Water quality and quantity are 
generally unaltered from natural conditions. 

Fair aquatic habitat condition: watershed 
minimally impacted by activities in the past; 
natural riparian vegetation altered or removed 
in past; limited amounts of large woody debris; 
fine sediments above natural levels; some 
adverse changes in water quality and quantity; 
habitat partly recovered or still in a decreasing 
trend. 



206 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Minimal aquatic habitat condition: major 
alterations in the watershed, water quality, 
water quantity, or natural stream habitat and 
riparian areas; few or no large trees or mature 
native vegetation in riparian areas; little or no 
large woody debris; pools few and shallow; and 
excessive sedimentation of the streambed. 

From 4% to 8% of the 790 species of native 
freshwater fish in the United States inhabit each 
of the western states within the study area (Page 
and Burr 1991). About 90% of these fish are 
nongame species, and many have a limited 
distribution and are found nowhere else in the 
world. The species inhabiting BLM public 
lands are best represented by members of the 
following families: Salmonidae 
(nonanadromous and anadromous salmonids); 
Cottidae (sculpin); Catostomidae (suckers); 
Esocidae (pike); Percidae (darters and other 
perches); Centrarchidae (sunfishes); Cyprinidae 
(minnows); Cyprinodontidae (killifishes); 
Ictaluridae (bullhead catfishes); 
Petromyzontidae (lampreys); Gadidae (burbot); 
and Gasterosteidae (sticklebacks). 

Much is known about the life history and 
habitat requirements of some of these species, 
and nothing is known about others. All of the 
species are important to the natural functioning 
of their ecosystems, and many species have 
social or economic value. 

Habitat Factors That Influence 
Fish Abundance 

Habitat needs for fish vary with the species, 
season of the year, and life stage. A variety of 
chemical, physical, and biological parameters 
interact to provide the range of environmental 
conditions that allow the species to exist. Some 
of the more important parameters include water 
quality, streamflow, cover, substrate, and energy 
(food) availability. These parameters are 
directly influenced by riparian function. But the 
following all play a role in defining the 
condition: climate, geology, soils, topography, 
upland vegetation, hydrology, land use within a 
watershed, and quality of the aquatic 
environment. 



Fish respond to these parameters both 
physiologically (altered growth rates and 
health) and behaviorally (site selection and 
community interaction). Fish generally respond 
to these environmental factors in combination. 
Where fish can live and reproduce, the range of 
environmental conditions must be suitable 
throughout their lives. To show the complexity 
and often narrow range of environmental 
conditions required by fish, the following 
narrative [from Bjornn and Reiser (1991) unless 
otherwise cited] discusses the habitat 
requirements of salmonids (e.g. trout, salmon, 
and char), a group that represents many species 
in streams near land open to mining. 

Water Quality. Salmonids require water 
with the following characteristics: 

• High concentration of dissolved oxygen 
(>75% saturation). 

• Nearly neutral to slightly alkaline (pH 6.5- 
8.7). 

• Free from toxic concentrations of heavy 
metals and other chemicals. 

• Sediment levels (bedload and suspended) that 
approximate natural undisturbed conditions. 

In addition, water temperature plays a 
crucial role in defining suitable water quality 
for fish. 

The timing of salmonid spawning has 
evolved in response to water temperatures in 
each stream before, during, and after spawning. 
Water temperatures can influence the upstream 
migration of adult spawners and delay the entry 
of spawners into their natal streams. 

Temperature also determines the rate of 
embryo and alevin (newly hatched fish still 
attached to the egg yolk) development. Within 
the temperature threshold for successful 
spawning and incubation, 4-14°C (Bell 1986), 
warmer temperatures result in shorter 
development times. In many streams winter 
temperatures fall below the 4°C minimum 
recommended for incubation, but the eggs 
develop normally because the spawning and 
development occurred when temperatures were 
within the suitable range. 



207 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Water temperature also determines the 
capacity of water to hold oxygen in solution. 
The relationship is an inverse one, with oxygen 
solubility lower in warmer water. Salmonids 
can survive relatively low concentrations of 
dissolved oxygen for short periods. But low 
concentrations adversely affect growth rate, 
swimming performance, and the efficiency of 
food conversion. 

Streamflow and Water Velocity. Adequate 
streamflow is important for providing fish 
passage (both for upstream migrating adults and 
downstream migrating juveniles). Streamflow 
also regulates the amount of spawning and 
rearing area by controlling the wetted perimeter 
and the depth and velocity of water. Streamflow 
also determines stream channel morphology, 
bed material particle size, and a stream's 
capacity to transport sediment. These 
parameters in turn determine the quality and 
distribution of aquatic habitat types. 

Next to flow, water velocity is probably the 
most important variable in determining the 
amount of living space for fish. If velocities are 
unsuitable, no fish will be present. Natural 
streams have a variety of velocities, some of 
which are suitable for fish. The velocities 
suitable for salmonids vary with life stage of 
the fish, the species, and the season of the year. 

Cover. In-stream cover gives fish security 
from predation and displacement during high 
flows and allows fish to use portions of a 
stream they might not otherwise be able to use. 
Some of the more common cover elements 
include the following: 

• Deep water 

• Water turbulence 

• Large-particle substrates 

• Overhanging riparian vegetation 

• Undercut streambanks 

• Woody debris 

• Aquatic vegetation 

The cover requirements of fish change 
diurnally, seasonally, and by species and life 
stage. Cover has been correlated to fish 
abundance and is an important aspect of quality 
habitat. 



Substrate. Streambed substrate gives 
juvenile fish cover from predators and adverse 
environmental conditions, serves as habitat for 
aquatic invertebrates, often provides a 
substantial component of the fish's diet, and 
contributes to the quality of spawning, 
incubation, and rearing habitat. 

The interstitial space (voids) between 
substrate particles provide instream cover. In 
many streams large-particle substrate is the 
main cover type along with water turbulence 
and depth. Small-particle substrates, such as silt 
and sand, are of no value as cover for fish. 
Small fish such as newly emerged fry can use 
substrates consisting of 2-5 cm diameter rocks, 
whereas larger fish require cobble- and boulder- 
size material. 

Aquatic invertebrates, which are a primary 
food for fish, are produced in the substrate. 
Some types of invertebrates are more suited to 
fine-particle substrates than others. But 
watershed disturbance and erosion can add fine 
sediments, which can reduce the abundance of 
many species of invertebrates, resulting in 
reduced fish production. 

When an adult salmonid selects a spawning 
site, it is also selecting the incubation 
environment. Redd (nest) construction displaces 
fine sediment and organic material from the 
redd and rearranges larger substrate material 
such as gravel and rubble, making the site as 
favorable to egg development as it will ever be. 
As the incubation period proceeds, redds may 
become less suitable to developing embryos if 
fine sediment and organic material are 
deposited in the interstitial space between 
particles. 

The fine sediment can impede the 
movement of water and alevins from the redd, 
and the organic matter can consume dissolved 
oxygen during decomposition. If organic matter 
consumes dissolved oxygen faster than the 
reduced intragravel water flow can replace it, 
the embryos or alevins will asphyxiate. The 
amount of fine sediment deposited and the 
depth to which it intrudes depends on the size 
of substrate in the redd, flow conditions in the 
stream, and the amount and size of sediment 
being carried. 



208 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Energy Flow and Stream Productivity. 

Stream and terrestrial ecosystems are closely 
linked. The flow of water, sediment, nutrients, 
and organic matter from the surrounding 
watershed shapes the physical habitat and 
supplies energy and nutrients to the stream 
community. Activities of the many components 
of the stream community influence the flow of 
energy from primary production to 
decomposition. As predators, salmonids are 
influenced by energy-flow processes operating 
at all levels in the stream ecosystem (Murphy 
and Meehan 1991). 

Streams vary in productivity, largely in 
response to nutrients and energy. Energy comes 
to the stream community from two main 
sources: photosynthesis by aquatic plants in the 
stream and decomposition of organic matter 
imported from upland and riparian areas outside 
the stream. Imported energy sources contribute 
organic matter to a stream by four main 
pathways: litter fall from streamside vegetation, 
ground water seepage, soil erosion, and fluvial 
transport from upstream. In addition, animals 
can contribute important amounts of organic 
matter and nutrients. 

Streamside vegetation provides large 
amounts of organic matter when leaves, 
needles, and woody debris fall into the stream. 
Leaves and needles usually contribute most of 
the readily usable organic matter in woodland 
streams. 

As much as 25% of a stream's total 
imported organic matter may enter dissolved in 
ground water. But the nutritional value of this 
dissolved organic matter is generally low, and 
this organic matter does not contribute much 
energy to the stream community (McDowell 
and Fisher 1976; Klotz and Matson 1978). As 
with ground water, most dissolved organic 
matter from soil erosion offers little nutritional 
value to the stream community. 

Fluvial transport of organic material from 
upstream reaches becomes an energy input to 
downstream reaches. Upstream reaches can 
supply up to a third of the total organic input to 
small streams and nearly all the organic matter 
in large rivers (Vannote and others 1980). The 



source of fluvial transport is generated in the 
stream itself by invertebrate processing of 
detritus (Webster and Golladay 1984 in Meehan 
1991) and algal cells detached from the 
streambed (Swanson and Bachmann 1976). 

Animals transport organic matter to streams 
in many ways. Terrestrial insects drop into 
streams and are eaten by fish. Drift of aquatic 
insects export matter downstream. And mature 
insects can move matter upstream by flying. 
Beavers carry woody debris to streams, and 
grazing and browsing mammals transfer matter 
by feeding in uplands and defecating in the 
floodplain. Annual spawning runs of 
anadromous salmon (and decay of carcasses) 
can contribute large amounts of organic matter 
and nutrients to some streams and historically 
contributed a large input of organic material 
and nutrients to streams. 

Influence of Riparian Vegetation. 
Watershed and riparian community condition 
directly influences the condition, quality, and 
maintenance of aquatic habitat. Riparian plants 
do the following: 

• Filter sediments and nutrients. 

• Create shade. 

• Stabilize streambanks. 

• Provide cover in the form of large and small 
woody debris. 

• Produce leaf litter energy inputs. 

• Promote infiltration and recharge of the 
alluvial aquifer (Orth and White 1993; 
Wesche 1993). 

As a result of these functions, spawning 
beds for salmonids and microhabitats for 
macroinvertebrates remain relatively free of 
damaging fine- sediment deposits. Riparian 
vegetation reduces sedimentation of pools, 
thereby maintaining water depths and structural 
diversity of the channel. The slow release of 
water stored in aquifers augments base flow 
levels throughout the year. The interaction of 
streamflow and riparian features, such as living 
vegetation and large woody debris, often form 
such complex off-channel habitats as 
backwaters, eddies, and side channels. These 



209 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



areas of slower water give critical refuge during 
floods for a variety of aquatic species and serve 
as rearing areas for juvenile fish. 

The bank stabilizing function of streamside 
vegetation not only helps reduce erosion and 
influence channel morphology but also acts to 
supplement instream cover by contributing to 
the development of undercut streambanks and 
by providing overhanging vegetation. Well- 
vegetated stream channels and stable 
streambanks help reduce the turbidity and 
channel scouring of high runoff and can also 
enhance primary production. 

In Alaska and other cold regions, well- 
vegetated stream channels help reduce the 
formation of aufeis (ice formed by the overflow 
of water onto existing ice). Aufeis can do the 
following: 

• Decrease primary productivity. 

• Delay riparian plant growth. 

• Increase erosion. 

• Tie up water as ice during critical low-flow 
periods. 

• Cause the formation of new stream channels 
by blocking channels (Churchill 1990; 
Michel 1971; Slaughter 1990). 

Threatened, Endangered, and 
Special Status Species-Status and 
Trend 

The population status of nonanadromous 
and anadromous fish species on BLM-managed 
land ranges from excellent to poor. Many states 
in the study area show a declining trend in the 
populations of native species. Alaska has no 
special status fish species, and Pacific salmon 
and steelhead have experienced record high 
abundance in the recent decade (Nehlsen 1996). 
Conversely, in Oregon, 25 nonanadromous 
species on BLM-administered land were listed 
as threatened, endangered, candidate, or 
sensitive as of 1991, and 79% of the salmon 
and steelhead stocks are at some risk of 
extinction (BLM 1996a, 1991a). 

In a literature review, Nehlsen and others 
(1991) found that 106 anadromous salmonid 
populations are extinct in the Pacific Northwest 



and that 214 other stocks of Pacific salmon and 
steelhead are facing high or moderate risk of 
extinction, or are of special concern. A closer 
look by Higgins and others (1992), Nickelson 
and others (1992), and the Washington 
Department of Fisheries and others (1993) 
further delineated those stocks listed by 
Nehlsen and others (1991) and determined that 
as many as 512 anadromous salmonid stocks 
inhabit the Pacific Northwest. Of the 512 stocks 
found, 243 occur on BLM-managed land, and 
173 (71 %) are at some risk of extinction (BLM 
1996a). 

In addition to anadromous species, many 
other rare and imperiled freshwater fishes reside 
in BLM-managed waters. In a state-by-state 
study of the status of freshwater fish in the 
United States, Warren and Burr (1994) found 
the number of native fish that are endangered, 
threatened, or of special concern to be 
particularly high in Nevada (43 species, 100% 
of the native fishes), California (42 species, 
72%), Oregon (25 species, 44%), Arizona (22 
species, 85%), and New Mexico (20 species, 
30%). In these states BLM manages thousands 
of miles/acres of stream and lake habitat. 

Williams and others (1989) documented a 
45% increase in the number of freshwater fishes 
in North America warranting special protection 
because of their rarity when compared with 
conditions 10 years earlier. They listed 147 taxa 
of special concern, 114 threatened, and 103 
endangered. Of these 364 taxa 31% occur in 
waters under BLM administration. As of 1991 
BLM-managed lands had 39 species of fish that 
were listed as threatened or endangered and 73 
species considered to be candidate, BLM 
sensitive, or state-listed species (BLM 1991a). 

In the past 6 years 26 species of fish have 
been added to the threatened and endangered 
list, bringing the total number of threatened or 
endangered fish on BLM-managed land to 65. 
These species inhabit BLM lands in all states 
except Alaska. (Appendix F lists threatened, 
endangered, and proposed candidate species.) 

About 93% of the declines in fish 
populations are attributed to habitat loss and 
destruction (Williams and others 1989). But 
mining has not caused all habitat loss and 



210 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



destruction.. Physical and chemical degradation 
results from many factors, including dams and 
diversions; chemical pollution; urban and 
agricultural encroachment; and damage from 
timber harvesting, livestock grazing, and 
mining (Williams 1997a). 

Effects of Mining on Aquatic 
Resources 

Since the mid- 1800s mining has impaired 
thousands of miles of aquatic habitat in the 
western United States (USFS 1993a; James 
1989, 1991; Chertudi 1986; Kleinman 1989, 
Kimball and others 1995; Finlayson and Verrue 
1980; Canfield and others 1994). It is difficult 
to measure the amount of BLM-managed 
aquatic habitat that has been disturbed since 
1981. The data for BLM-managed land does not 
distinguish between disturbance to aquatic 
habitat and disturbance to upland areas. In 
addition, information on disturbance does not 
include indirect offsite impacts that can result 
from changes to water quality or quantity or to 
stream morphology. 

Finally, the quality of BLM-managed 
aquatic habitat may be impaired by mining on 
non-BLM- managed lands upstream or on 
adjacent uplands. Between 1981 and 1997, 
placer mining altered an estimated 450 miles of 
stream on BLM-managed land. This estimate 
considers only direct stream channel 
disturbance by placer mining and not indirect 
offsite impacts (e.g. downstream water quality 
impacts). Nor does this estimate consider 
disturbance or impacts stemming from 
exploration; strip, pit, or underground mining; 
or independent mill sites, all of which would 
increase the estimate. The estimate of disturbed 
stream length above was derived by converting 
past acreage estimates for placer Notice- and 
Plan-level operations to miles of stream channel 
by dividing by an average width. The average 
widths (300 feet for Notices and 600 feet for 
Plans) were obtained from BLM patent 
applications. 

Physical Impacts. Mining, particularly 
placer mining, often directly alters or relocates 
stream channels. This alteration destroys 



aquatic habitat. Placer mining often diverts 
streams into bypass channels while the original 
channel is mined. Streams are then returned to 
newly built (reclaimed) channels once mining is 
complete. Stream bypasses and newly 
reclaimed stream channels are often built with 
or result in different geometry and physical 
characteristics (e.g. flood prone and bankfull 
widths, bankfull depth, sinuosity, slope, 
entrenchment, and substrate size) than that of 
the natural unmodified channel. 

The difference is often due to the removal 
of streamside vegetation and other hard 
structural elements that defined the natural 
channel morphology. As a result, bypasses and 
newly reclaimed channels are often straighter, 
have a higher gradient, and thus have more 
energy than the natural channel. In addition, 
new channels often lack the diversity of habitats 
(pools, glides, riffles) and cover components 
(undercut bank, overhanging vegetation, large 
woody debris). This diversity enhances the 
quality of habitat in natural unmodified 
channels. 

Altering surface hydrology often results in 
stream conditions that no longer provide 
suitable habitat to species or life stages of fish 
and other aquatic organisms present before 
disturbance. For example, increased stream 
flow may result in water velocities that do the 
following: 

• Cause involuntary downstream displacement 
and mortality of juveniles. 

• Result in scour-related mortality of eggs and 
alevins. 

• Accelerate streambank erosion. 

• Create less desirable conditions for adult fish. 

• Deplete large woody debris and organic 
material over the long term. 

The enlargement of stream channels may 
result in a shallow, low-velocity aquatic 
environment during periods of low flow. This 
new environment then could result in crowding, 
loss of spawning habitat, reduced primary and 
secondary productivity, increased vulnerability 
to predation, and increased sedimentation 
(Swanston 1991; Hicks and others 1991; 



211 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



National Research Council 1992; Stouder and 
others 1997). 

Mine development may also alter the 
natural input rate of sediment, organic matter, 
and nutrients to aquatic systems. Mine sites can 
include open pits, heap and dump leaches, 
waste rock and overburden piles, tailings piles 
and dams, haul roads and access roads, ore 
stockpiles, vehicle and equipment maintenance 
areas, and exploration and reclamation areas. 
These areas are all major sources of erosion and 
sediment. 

The main factors influencing erosion on 
mine sites include the volume and velocity of 
runoff from precipitation, the rate of 
precipitation infiltration through the soil, the 
amount of plant cover, the slope length or the 
distance from the point of origin of overland 
flow to the point of deposition, and operational 
erosion control structures (EPA 1997). 

Sediment delivery exceeding natural levels 
can greatly disrupt the aquatic environment. 
Excessive fine sediment deposited in streams 
can alter stream channel morphology, substrate 
composition, and surface-ground water 
interaction (Madison 1981; Bjerklie and 
LaPerriere 1985; Rosgen 1996). These changes 
can lead to decreased survival of fish in the egg 
and alevin stages; decreased density, biomass, 
and diversity of aquatic insects; and decreased 
primary production (Cordone and Kelley 1961; 
Cooper 1965; Van Nieuwenhuyse 1983; Webber 
and Post 1985; Lloyd and others 1987; Buhl 
and Hamiltion 1990). 

Suction dredging has been shown to locally 
reduce benthic (bottom dwelling) invertebrates 
(Thomas 1985; Harvey 1986) and cause 
mortality to early life stages of fish due to 
entrainment by the dredging equipment 
(Griffith and Andrews 1981). Suction dredging 
may also do the following: 

• Destabilize spawning and incubation habitat. 

• Remove large roughness elements such as 
boulders and woody debris that are important 
for forming pool habitat and that can govern 
the location and deposition of spawning 
gravels (Harvey and Lisle 1998). 



• Increase suspended sediment, decreasing the 
feeding efficiency of sight-feeding fish 
(Barrett and others 1992). 

• Reduce living space by depositing fine 
sediment (Harvey 1986). 

• Cause fish to avoid certain habitats because 
of their response to divers (Roelofs 1983). 

On the other hand, suction dredging may 
temporarily improve physical fish habitat by 
creating deep pools or by creating more living 
space by stacking large unembedded substrate 
(Harvey and Lisle 1998). In general, 
invertebrates and periphyton all rapidly 
recolonize small patches of new or disturbed 
substrate in streams as long as the area of 
disturbance is not so widespread as to limit the 
number of organisms available to recolonize 
(Griffith and Andrews 1981; Thomas 1985; 
Harvey 1986). In addition, dredge tailings may 
increase spawning sites in streams lacking 
spawning gravel or in streams that are armored 
by substrate too large to be moved by fish 
(Kondolf and others 1991). In some cases the 
reduction in the feeding efficiency of fish may 
be offset by reduced visibility and the 
corresponding reduced risk of predation at 
moderate levels of suspended sediment 
(Gregory 1993). 

The current state of knowledge of suction 
dredging and its impacts on aquatic resources 
suggests that the practice could be either 
detrimental or beneficial, depending on site- 
specific use by aquatic organisms and physical 
habitat limitations. In either case, the location 
and timing of suction dredging must be 
evaluated to determine potential impacts on fish 
and other aquatic resources. 

Water Quality and Quantity Impacts. 
Water pollution from acid rock drainage is one 
of the most serious and persistent problem 
facing the mining industry. Acid rock drainage 
can result from the exposure to water and air of 
material containing metallic sulfides such as 
pyrite, saphalerite, and galena. 

The chemical reaction that produces acid 
rock drainage occurs naturally due to 
weathering. But mining can accelerate the 



212 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



reaction by exposing large amounts of sulfide- 
bearing material. When exposed, these sulfide 
minerals readily oxidize in water to form 
sulfuric acid. 

Runoff and seepage from sulfide-bearing 
material may have a low pH (2.0-4.5), which is 
directly toxic to most forms of aquatic life and 
mobilizes (dissolves) toxic metals. Water can 
carry the toxic metals many miles from their 
source (Johns and Moore 1985). Although 
testing methods used to predict acid rock 
drainage have improved in recent years, there is 
often substantial uncertainty about the 
predictions. Moreover, new mines can develop 
unpredicted acid rock drainage after only a few 
years of operation or after mine closure (EPA 
1997). 

Acid rock drainage from both abandoned 
and active mines has damaged many miles of 
aquatic habitat. On Forest Service land alone, 
acid rock drainage has impaired an estimated 
5,000 to 10,000 miles of streams (EPA 1997). 
Metal mining materials and wastes that have the 
potential to generate acid rock drainage include 
tailings, waste rock, overburden, and spent ore 
from heap and dump leach operations. Equally 
or more important at some sites are the pit walls 
at surface mining operations and the 
underground workings of underground mines. 
Acid rock drainage can also occur in pit mining 
lakes formed. 

In Nevada over the next 20 years mining is 
predicted to form 30 pit lakes. When filled by 
ground water, these lakes will contain more 
than 1 million acre-feet of water that one 
researcher predicts will likely be permanently 
toxic to wildlife (Miller and others 1996). The 
potential threat to aquatic life from 
contaminants mobilizing in a pit lake or in 
ground water next to a pit lake can vary from 
site to site. 

Common rates of ground water movement 
are 150 to 200 feet per year in fine to medium 
sands and 1,000 to 2,000 feet per year in 
gravels. The actual ground water flow rate 
depends on the hydraulic conductivity of the 
aquifer and the ground water gradient. 
Contaminants such as metals may travel at 



slower rates than ground water depending on 
the constituent and its interaction with the soil 
type (Grabert 1998). In addition, hydrodynamic 
dispersion, which spreads the contaminate 
plume in a direction perpendicular to the flow, 
will affect how big the plume becomes. 

Metals are naturally present in all surface 
waters and are required by aquatic organisms in 
trace amounts. Mining may cause the 
concentration of dissolved metals to exceed the 
natural background levels within streams and 
lakes. The chief metals released to streams and 
lakes by mines are arsenic, cadmium, 
chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, 
manganese, mercury, nickel, and zinc. At high 
concentrations, metals may kill aquatic 
organisms. At prolonged exposure to sublethal 
concentrations of metals, organisms may 
experience behavioral changes and reproductive 
failure (Chapman 1973). 

Metal precipitates that originate in some 
waste rock dumps can be highly mobile and be 
transported long distances in streams. Metals in 
this solid phase have resulted in reduced density 
and diversity of aquatic invertebrates and food 
chain contamination in areas removed (more 
thanl5 miles) from the contamination source. 
Metal-contaminated diets have been found to 
cause reduced growth, histopathological (tissue 
change) effects, and reduced survival in trout. 
Exposure to metals in the diet have caused 
greater adverse effects to trout than exposure to 
metals in solution (Farag and others 1994; 
Ingersoll and others 1994; Kemble and others 
1994; Moore and others 1991; Woodward and 
others 1994). 

Cyanide is toxic in its free form, hydrogen 
cyanide (HCN), as the cyanide ion (CN-), and 
as breakdown compounds such as cyanates, 
thiocyanates, chloroamines, cyanogen chloride, 
and metal-cyanide complexes (Moran 1998). 
Although free cyanide does not persist in the 
natural environment and does not 
bioaccumulate through the food chain, many of 
the breakdown complexes do bioaccumulate, 
and some are especially toxic to fish. 
Consequently, the exposure of surface waters to 
cyanide compounds resulting from leaching, 



213 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



seepage, accidental discharge, emergency 
releases, and runoff can be harmful or lethal to 
aquatic life. 

Since the 1980s, many major cyanide spills 
have occurred. On the Zortman-Landusky mine 
in Montana, cyanide has been detected in every 
sample of ground water collected between 1992 
and 1995 from Montana Gulch. The cyanide 
contamination at this location was attributed to 
a pipeline rupture below a leach pad in 1992 
(BLM and Montana Dept. of Environmental 
Quality 1996). The most notable cyanide spill 
occurred in South Carolina in 1990, when a 
dam failure released 10 million gallons of 
cyanide solution, killing fish for 50 miles 
downstream from the mine (EPA 1997). 

Many native fish have evolved according to 
specific patterns of annual and seasonal 
precipitation, runoff, and stream flow. Most of 
these species have enough flexibility in the 
timing of their maturation, migration, and 
reproduction life stages to allow them to 
survive temporary periods of unfavorable 
conditions. But mining can change the natural 
surface and subsurface hydrology to such an 
extent that some species cannot survive. 

Surface mining commonly strips land of its 
vegetation and topsoil. Such a condition can 
lead to the following: 

• A decreased water infiltration capacity of the 
remaining soils. 

• Increased overland flow. 

• Decreased lag time between precipitation 
events and runoff. 

• Increased streamflow over short periods of 
time. 

Any increase in overland flow, particularly 
over disturbed areas, will increase the amount 
of sediment introduced into a stream. The 
increased overland flow and sediment input 
places hydrological stresses on the receiving 
stream channel and will eventually lead to 
erosion, destabilization, and enlargement of the 
stream channel. 

Water consumption is another aspect of 
open pit mining that threatens aquatic 
resources. Because surface and ground water 



are inextricably connected, dewatering of 
aquifers by large open pit mines can change 
surface flow patterns. As the amount of water 
being intercepted and pumped from the mine 
increases, the size of the area subjected to a 
lowered water table increases. In some cases 
the area influenced by dewatering can extend 
for miles (Crompton 1995). 

After mining (and pumping) is complete, 
many decades may be needed for the ground 
water to replenish (EPA 1997). In some cases 
more than a century may be required to 
reestablish the ground water supply to that of 
predisturbance condition (Manning 1994; BLM 
1996d). In other cases dewatering of alluvial 
aquifers could result in the permanent loss of 
water storage capacity due to compaction of the 
aquifer (EPA 1997). As a result, flow to 
surrounding springs, streams, and lakes may be 
reduced or lost with direct consequences to 
aquatic species that rely on the affected water 
source. 

In arid environments like Nevada, ground 
water fed springs may contain native 
invertebrates such as the spring snail. Loss of 
these unique habitats from dewatering is of 
particular concern because many of the species 
occupying these spring-fed areas are just 
becoming known, and in many cases no 
measures have been developed to protect them. 

Aquatic and wetland habitats downstream 
of the immediate area influenced by mine 
dewatering may also be at risk due to the 
increased demand placed on water resources. 
An example of this influence may be seen in 
the Humboldt Wildlife Management Area, a 
terminal wetland in west- central Nevada. 
Agricultural water diversions and drought have 
reduced water delivery to the wetlands over 
several years. 

Over the last 10 to 15 years, the 
development of large open pit mines and related 
increase in population have placed new and 
increased demands on water within the 
Humboldt River Basin. These demands in turn 
may further reduce water delivery to the 
wetland and result in a corresponding decrease 
in water quality due to concentration of salts 
and other dissolved constituents. 



214 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Reclamation Practices. Reclamation under 
the 3809 regulations has evolved sincel981. In 
the early 1980s placer mine reclamation usually 
consisted of relocating the stream channel back 
into the lowest part of the valley on a bedrock 
substrate, followed by recontouring the tailings 
into the surrounding topography by pushing 
them uphill away from the stream channel and 
floodplain. Any available topsoil was respread 
over the graded tailings. Many of the sites had 
been mined previously or historically, and the 
topsoil had been lost. Occasionally operations 
seeded sites after applying the topsoil. But more 
commonly sites were left to revegetate through 
natural succession. Similarly, limited grading 
and occasional seeding often reclaimed 
nonplacer operations. 

Today, more attention is paid to stream 
channel design. In some of the more recent 
examples of placer reclamation, newly built 
stream channels are modeled after the natural 
system or a system with similar gradient, 
sinuosity, dimensions, and flow. Revegetation is 
still usually left to natural processes, especially 
in Alaska. In nonplacer reclamation, seeding is 
now standard practice. Seeds are usually a 
mixture of grasses, forbs, and shrubs, and 
increasingly consist mostly or entirely of native 
species. 

Unfortunately, the success of the existing 
regulations at rehabilitating aquatic habitat has 
been poor, mainly because past reclamation 
practices. Much of the recent emphasis on 
proper stream channel design has been applied 
only at a few mines and has yet to be evaluated. 
In addition, past reclamation practices did not 
commonly replace lost instream cover 
components or hard structural elements that 
provide habitat diversity. Many of these 
elements (e.g. logs, boulders, root wads) are not 
suitable for all channel types (Rosgen 1 996) 
and may create unwanted hydrological stress on 
new stream channels, resulting in undesirable 
channel adjustments. Several years may be 
needed for a new channel to reestablish 
equilibrium and stability and allow lost cover 
components to be installed and habitat diversity 
to be restored. 



Most of the aquatic habitat disturbed since 
1981 remains in an impaired condition. Field 
evaluations by BLM staff and Carlson and 
Karle (1997) reveal that operations have rarely 
achieved reclamation, including reestablishing 
hydrologically stable drainages, properly 
functioning floodplains, and riparian zones, and 
a diverse mix of habitat types and cover 
components. In recent years, maintaining good 
water quality has been less of a problem. But 
during heavy precipitation or runoff, aquatic 
organisms may be exposed to harmful or fatal 
levels of sediment, turbidity, metals, and other 
toxic chemicals. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Alternative 1: No Action 

The removal of streamside riparian-wetland 
vegetation during mining would result in loss or 
degradation of aquatic habitat until proper 
functioning condition could be reestablished. In 
general, the time required for riparian-wetland 
areas to attain proper functioning condition 
would be dictated by natural processes and 
could require from 25 to 50 or more years, 
depending on site conditions, including soil, 
aspect, climate, and external disturbance factors 
such as livestock grazing. 

Dewatering of mines could expose aquatic 
organisms to (1) artificially elevated levels of 
stream discharge during mine operation and (2) 
insufficient stream flow during aquifer recharge 
following mining. Water quality standards 
should be met during periods of low flow, but 
increased sedimentation and elevated turbidity 
would be expected during storms due to stream 
channel erosion and lack of stabilizing 
vegetation on disturbed sites. Because of the 
need for long-term or perpetual water treatment 
and maintenance of impoundments, aquatic life 
would continue to be threatened by runoff, 
seepage, ground water contamination from 
spent ore from heap and dump leach operations, 
tailings, waste rock, overburden material, pit 
walls, pit lakes, and underground mine 
workings. 



215 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Suction dredging might affect fish 
communities by doing the following: 

• Reducing local food supply (invertebrates) 
and feeding efficiency. 

• Destabilizing spawning, incubation, and 
rearing habitat. 

• Injuring or killing early life stages. 

These impacts would continue, undetected 
and unregulated, because BLM typically does 
not require a Notice or Plan of Operations. 

Threatened and endangered species would 
be protected under the Endangered Species Act. 
But as with more common species, BLM- and 
state-listed sensitive species would continue to 
be displaced, injured, and killed. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Impacts to aquatic habitats and 
communities would vary by state because of the 
wide range of regulatory requirements. For 
example, California has a highly detailed and 
complex regulatory system that recommends 
that wildlife habitat be returned to its premining 
condition, if not a better condition, unless the 
proposed end use precludes habitat. In addition, 
California requires the preparing of an 
environmental impact report (EIR) for any 
project that might have a substantial impact on 
the environment. The EIR is similar to the 
environmental analysis and documentation 
required under the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA). In contrast, Nevada, defers 
to BLM reclamation standards and does not 
require preparing any NEPA-like 
documentation. Regardless of the states' 
regulatory requirements, the requirements under 
which a mine is operated are mainly determined 
by negotiation between the mine operator and 
the state (McElfish and others 1996). In 
general, the nature, extent, and duration of 
impacts under the State Management 
Alternative would be similar to Alternative 1. 

As under Alternative 1 , common species 
and BLM- and state-listed sensitive species 
would continue to be displaced, injured, or 
killed except for possibly in California and 



Oregon, which require consultation for state- 
listed species. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

The Proposed Action would require 
operators to minimize disturbance to fish and 
many of the habitat parameters affecting the 
aquatic community. Such parameters include 
water quality and quantity and riparian areas. 
This requirement should result in less aquatic 
habitat being directly disturbed in areas outside 
the ore body. In the past, areas outside the ore 
body may have been disturbed to develop 
access, waste dumps, or other support activities 
for ore extraction. Where disturbance could not 
be avoided, the nature and duration of 
disturbance would be similar to that under 
Alternatives 1 and 2. 

Some of the unavoidable disturbance to 
aquatic habitat would be offset by riparian- 
wetland mitigation. Because of BLM's ability 
to set the time frame (goal) for riparian 
recovery (and thus the level of reclamation 
effort applied to riparian restoration), the time 
needed under Alternative 3 to rehabilitate 
aquatic habitat to a level where it is healthy, 
properly functioning, and self-maintaining 
might be slightly less than under Alternatives 1 
or 2. Over time, offsite riparian mitigation or 
replacement required under the Proposed Action 
should avoid the loss of riparian vegetation but 
still might not address the spatial distribution 
and functional processes provided by natural 
riparian systems (Pastor and Johnston 1992; 
North Carolina State University 1998). 

Suction dredging would continue to affect 
fish communities by reducing local food supply 
(invertebrates) and feeding efficiency. But most 
impacts on early life stages of fish and of 
spawning, incubation, and rearing habitat could 
be avoided or reduced by proper timing or 
specifying certain areas as off limits to 
dredging. 

Threatened and endangered species would 
continue to receive the same level of protection 
that they do now under the Endangered Species 
Act. Displacement, injury, and mortality of 
common and BLM- and state-listed sensitive 



216 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



species should be less where habitat disturbance 
outside of the area of the ore body could be 
minimized by such actions as relocating access 
roads out of riparian-wetland areas. Sensitive 
species would continue to be affected near the 
ore body. 

All mining would require Plans of 
Operations. BLM's ability to require baseline 
information for Plan-level operations should 
help increase the success of fisheries 
rehabilitation. Such information might include 
detailed stream channel geometry, aquatic 
habitat composition, and documentation of 
species and lifestage presence or absence. 
Exploration disturbing less than 5 acres would 
be allowed under a Notice. But bonding of 
Notice-level operations and the requirement to 
meet the performance standards to prevent 
unnecessary or undue degradation should help 
ensure that areas are rehabilitated. 

Bonding requirements under Alternative 3 
would not address unplanned events such as 
spills or facility failures or unforeseen changes 
to water supply or water quality. Therefore, 
funding of corrective action would fall to BLM. 
In areas having unusually high-value aquatic 
resources, BLM might deny mining if an 
operation could not provide suitable mitigation. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

The substantial irreparable harm standard in 
combination with the 10-year habitat restoration 
time requirement would make Alternative 4 far 
better protect aquatic resources and reduce 
disturbance more than the other alternatives. 

The nature of impacts to aquatic resources 
under Alternative 4 would be similar to that 
under the other alternatives. But under 
Alternative 4 the habitat restoration time 
requirement (and the corresponding increase in 
reclamation effort to meet this requirement ) 
would greatly reduce the duration and extent of 
impacts. As under the other alternatives, the 
removal of streamside riparian vegetation 
during mining would degrade aquatic habitat 
and communities by the following: 



• Increasing stream channel erosion and stream 
sedimentation. 

• Promoting altered channel morphology. 

• Decreasing water quality. 

In addition, riparian vegetation would lose 
its role of providing nutrient and energy input, 
stream shading, instream cover components, 
streambank stability, and aquifer recharge. But 
if the operator could not project successful 
restoration of aquatic and riparian-wetland 
habitat to proper functioning condition 
(including suitable water supply) within 10 
years after mining, BLM could deny the 
proposal to mine. 

In addition to the requirement to restore 
aquatic habitat to proper functioning premining 
condition, all operations under Alternative 4 
would be bonded to cover unplanned events. 

Runoff, seepage, and ground water 
contamination from mining would no longer 
pose as great a threat to the aquatic community 
because of the ability to designate certain acid- 
producing deposits as unsuitable for mining. 
The result would be that acid-producing 
conditions would not occur in some areas, and 
metals would not be released into ground or 
surface water that accompanies low-pH 
conditions. In some instances, however, 
modeling would not foresee the potential for a 
deposit to produce acid (and metals). 

Impacts from suction dredging would be 
similar to those under Alternative 3 and would 
mostly be avoided. 

Alternative 4 would reduce or avoid the 
displacement, injury, and mortality of BLM- 
and state-listed sensitive species by the 
requirement to treat these species as threatened 
and endangered under the Endangered Species 
Act. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5 mining would require 
Plans of Operations, and exploration disturbing 
less than 5 acres would require Notices, as 
under Alternative 3. Notice-level bonding 
would help ensure that performance standards 



217 



Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



are met, but bonding would not cover 
unplanned events that could degrade aquatic 
resources. The definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation would not include the 
substantial irreparable harm standard, and BLM 
could not deny mining in areas with high-value 
aquatic resources. Under Alternative 5 aquatic 
resources would receive similar protection as 
under Alternative 1. 

Cumulative and Residual Impacts 

Unavoidable direct disturbance to aquatic 
and riparian habitat would require many years 
(25 to 50+) to recover to healthy functioning 
condition. This recovery period might be 
prolonged in some areas, depending on how the 
land is used after reclamation. For example, 
livestock grazing might extend the time for 
streamside riparian vegetation to become 
established. Some of the mining, especially 
placer mining, might take place on previously 
worked claims, setting back aquatic/riparian 
habitat recovery by the number of years 
between the previous and future disturbance. 

In summary, placer mining disturbed an 
estimated 450 miles of stream channels between 
1981 and 1997 and is predicted to disturb a 
similar amount for the 20-year analysis period. 
In addition, direct and indirect disturbance to 
aquatic -riparian habitat from exploration; strip, 
pit, or underground mining; or independent mill 
sites could substantially increase this estimate, 
possibly doubling it. The result would be an 
estimated total cumulative disturbance of 1 ,500 
to 2,000 miles of aquatic/riparian habitat in 
addition to the thousands of miles of 
aquatic/riparian habitat still being affected by 
historic operations. 

All alternatives might have residual impacts 
from operations causing acid production, and 
might result in the associated need to treat 
water and maintain impoundment facilities for 
long periods, or perpetually. In addition, 
erosion, the altering of surface hydrology, and 
the introducing of sediment beyond the ability 
of streams to transport it would result in 
channel instability and undesirable channel 
adjustments that might affect streams over 



much of their length. Channel adjustments, in 
turn, could degrade offsite aquatic-riparian 
habitat. 

In areas subjected to large-scale ground 
water withdrawals, many decades may be 
required before ground water levels recover and 
the connection to dependent streams, springs, 
and seeps is reestablished. The recovery of 
ground water levels may be prolonged by other 
competing uses of the water. 

Wildlife Resources 

Affected Environment 

A great diversity of aquatic (amphibians) 
and terrestrial animal species inhabit federally 
managed public lands. Equally diverse are the 
vegetation communities that serve as habitat for 
these unique assemblages of aquatic and 
terrestrial species. Federal lands across the West 
provide seasonal or permanent habitat for more 
than 3,000 species of amphibians, reptiles, 
birds, mammals, and fish. 

Amphibians and Reptiles 

Information on the distribution and 
abundance of amphibians on BLM-managed 
lands is limited. Amphibians are difficult to 
survey because localized populations fluctuate 
widely over time, and trends are difficult to 
determine. Moreover, distribution and 
abundance are tied closely to specific substrates 
and microhabitat conditions. Most amphibians 
require moist sites or standing to flowing water 
for egg-laying and larval development. 
Amphibians mainly live in riparian, wetland, 
and aquatic habitats, but a few inhabit 
grasslands and coniferous-deciduous forests. 

Amphibian populations have declined in the 
past decade (Vitt and others 1990). Although no 
single factor has been found to cause declines, 
many factors are suspected. The dramatic loss 
of wetlands to land development and farming 
has directly affected amphibians. Introducing 
exotic species such as bullfrogs, trout, and carp 
can reduce amphibian populations through 
predation or destruction of food and breeding 
habitat. Some species have a high tolerance for 



218 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



changes in water quality. Others, such as the 
Idaho giant salamander, do not. The following 
actions may alter water quality enough to harm 
adults, reproduction, and food sources (Freda 
and others 1991; Quigley and others 1997): 

• Runoff from roads. 

• Use of herbicides and pesticides. 

• Increased sedimentation from mining, 
farming, forestry, and recreation. 

As with amphibians, information is limited 
on population distribution and abundance of 
reptiles on BLM-managed lands. Like 
amphibians, reptiles are closely tied to 
microhabitat conditions such as slope and 
aspect. 

Birds 

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 as 
amended in 1972 makes it unlawful to "take" 
any migratory bird, any part of a bird, or nests 
and eggs of such birds (see Appendix C). The 
Bald Eagle Protection Act also makes it 
unlawful to "take" any bald or golden eagle, 
any part, or nests and eggs of such birds. 

Song Birds and Upland Game Birds. In 
recent years public concern for these birds has 
risen sharply as a result of population declines. 
Rich and Beardmore (1997) list 177 species of 
birds that rated a priority for management 
attention in one or more of the western states 
(Appendix F). Federal lands in the western 
United States constitute an important part of 
breeding habitat. 

Survey data have revealed declines in 
songbird populations throughout the United 
States, Canada, and Mexico. Population 
declines are due to a variety of factors. The 
main cause is habitat destruction on breeding 
grounds, wintering areas, and migration routes. 
But other significant factors include the 
following: 

• Urbanization. 

• Habitat fragmentation. 

• Predation by domestic cats. 

• Parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds. 



• Flying into transmission towers and windows. 

• Invasions of nonnative plant species. 

• Herbicides and pesticides. 

Songbirds that breed on public lands can be 
classified as short-distance migrants, residents, 
or long-distance (neotropical) migrants. Short- 
distance migrants may move only slightly, such 
as shifting elevation. For example, white- 
breasted nuthatches, mountain chickadees, and 
American dippers move down in elevation 
during winter and return to higher elevations in 
the spring and summer. Other species such as 
the northern mockingbird, rufous-crowned 
sparrow, and downy woodpecker may migrate 
south but remain within the United States 
during the winter. Resident birds generally 
remain in one area during the year and do not 
migrate. The hairy woodpecker, common 
flicker, horned lark, and black-capped 
chickadees are examples of residents. 

Neotropical migratory birds fly to Mexico, 
the Caribbean, and Central and South America 
during the fall to spend the winter. They then 
return to the United States and Canada during 
the spring to breed. Neotropical migratory 
songbirds are some of the most beautiful and 
commonly recognized birds in the United 
States. Riparian areas and large tracts of upland 
native prairie are especially important to 
songbirds. Some familiar species of migratory 
birds in the West include the Bullock's oriole, 
western tanager, rufous hummingbird, lazuli 
bunting, cedar waxwing, and yellow warbler. 

A variety of upland game birds also inhabit 
public lands. Several are becoming imperiled: 
sage grouse, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, 
mountain quail, and lesser prairie-chicken. The 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received 
petitions for federal listing of each of the these 
species as threatened or endangered. Other 
upland game birds on BLM-managed lands 
include the ruffed grouse, blue grouse, greater 
prairie-chicken, California and Gambel's quail, 
willow and white-tailed ptarmigan, several dove 
species, and wild turkeys. Ring-necked 
pheasants and chukar partridge are both exotic 
upland game birds introduced from Eurasia. 



219 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Upland game birds occupy many plant 
communities managed by BLM. Sage grouse 
occupy habitats that are predominantly 
sagebrush steppe. Sharp-tailed grouse prefer a 
prairie or low- shrub and grass community. 
Ruffed grouse use brushy woodlands along 
streams and around springs. Their daily and 
seasonal habitat needs are typically more 
specific. Brood rearing requires wet meadow 
habitats and other habitat types that are ideal for 
producing forbs and insects. 

Nationally, populations of greater prairie 
chickens, Alaskan sharp-tailed grouse, and wild 
turkeys are increasing. The remaining species 
are almost evenly split between stable and 
declining status. Although weather plays a 
major role in the population dynamics of upland 
game birds, urbanization and industrialization 
have eliminated millions of acres of habitat. 
Farming, grazing, logging, fire, mineral and 
energy development, and nonnative plant 
invasions have all contributed to the loss of 
habitat. 

Waterfowl. Waterfowl include ducks, 
geese, and swans. Most waterfowl breed in 
Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States 
and migrate to overwinter in Mexico and the 
southern United States. Important for the 
reproductive success and survival of waterfowl 
is a complex of diverse wetland habitat types 
that include a variety of emergent vegetation 
and open water areas. 

Regardless of the habitat type, extensive 
areas of habitat have deteriorated or been 
destroyed and rendered unsuitable for 
waterfowl. Many waterfowl species have 
suffered as a result of shrinking habitats, 
exacerbated by long periods of drought 
combined with predation. Habitat losses have 
concentrated waterfowl populations and 
contributed to the rapid spread of mortality 
from diseases such as avian cholera and 
botulism. 

Water quality affects the aquatic food chain 
and has major effects on waterfowl 
productivity. For example, increasing wetland 
acidity reduces both emergent vegetation and 
invertebrate diversity and biomass. 



Shorebirds and Wetland-Dependent 
Migratory Birds. Shorebirds are found not 
only in coastal regions but throughout the Great 
Plains and deserts of the western United 
States-areas that have high evapotranspiration 
rates. Most shorebirds nest on the arctic tundra, 
including millions of pairs on public lands in 
Alaska. Shorebirds generally nest in upland 
grasses or gravelly areas near semipermanent to 
permanent wetlands and feed on invertebrates 
using mudflats exposed by receding water. 
Common shorebirds include sandpipers, 
plovers, killdeer, herons and egrets, phalaropes, 
avocets, rails, dowitchers, and willets. Loons, 
coots, and grebes require permanent wetland 
habitats. As with waterfowl, wetlands are 
important to the future populations of these 
species. 

Raptors. Eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and 
vultures are collectively known as raptors, or 
birds of prey. Compared to most other animal 
groups, raptors naturally exist at relatively low 
population levels and are widely dispersed 
within their habitats. Like the wolf, mountain 
lion, and grizzly bear, raptors are top predators 
and represent key species for determining the 
condition of a variety of ecosystems. Changes 
in raptor status typically reflect the availability 
of their prey species (mammals, birds, reptiles). 
Population changes also may suggest 
environmental conditions. 

Raptors are a subgroup of land birds (see 
above) but have several special considerations. 
First, they are more sensitive to disturbances 
around their nests than are other landbirds 
because raptor territories are large and their 
populations are much smaller than those of 
other landbirds. Second, raptors are susceptible 
to direct mortality through both electrocution 
and shooting. Finally, because raptors are at the 
top of the food chain, they tend to be more 
vulnerable to contaminants. This vulnerability 
is related to higher levels of exposure due to 
bioaccumulation or biomagnification of some 
contaminants. 



220 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Small Mammals 

Small mammals (rodents and insectivores) 
inhabit almost every kind of habitat in North 
America. Some species, such as deer mice, are 
common and widespread in many habitats. 
Others are found only in certain parts of the 
country or in limited, specific habitats. Beaver 
are a habitat-limited species because they 
require riparian or other aquatic communities. 
Rodents and insectivores are a major source of 
food for such predators as bobcat, coyote, fox, 
and badger, and are ecologically important to 
plant communities. Land uses that threaten one 
small- mammal species may benefit another. 

Bats 

Although information on bat species and 
populations on BLM-managed lands is limited, 
general studies and surveys are quickly filling 
this void. The involvement of Bat Conservation 
International through an agreement with BLM 
(March 1993) has significantly increased the 
knowledge base. 

Bat populations are declining throughout 
the United States as a result of deforestation, 
agricultural development, and human 
disturbance of caves. Although people generally 
associate bats with caves, bats may occupy a 
variety of habitats, including trees and cliffs. 
Many bats have occupied abandoned 
underground mines, which often provide 
microhabitats similar to caves. 

Declines in bats pose serious ecological and 
economic impacts. Bats are the main predators 
of vast numbers of nocturnal insects, which 
include many agricultural and forest pests. Bats 
are also important pollinators and seed 
dispersers for southwest desert plants. The 
Western Bat Working Group (1998) developed 
a matrix of regional priority species (Appendix 
F) to give states, provinces, federal land 
management agencies, and interested 
organizations better information on the overall 
status of bat species in western North America. 

Carnivores 

Populations of large carnivores are 
decreasing (Weber and Rabinowitz 1 996; Clark 



and others 1996a, 1996b; Noss and others 
1996). Large carnivores such as grizzly bears, 
gray wolves, mountain lions, wolverines, and 
coyotes are some of the most persecuted of all 
North American wildlife. Large carnivores have 
large home ranges and require large prey 
populations. Therefore, they require large, intact 
ecosystems to meet their general habitat 
requirements. One land development action, 
like clear cutting or a housing development, 
may only slightly affect a large-carnivore 
population, but the cumulative effects of 
multiple actions can be extremely harmful. 

Carnivores can be either habitat generalists 
or habitat specialists. Larger species tend to use 
a variety of habitats. For example, mountain 
lion, coyote, black bear, and grizzly bear 
(habitat generalists) are tied to the movements 
of ungulates, berry production, and spawning 
runs of fish, and are therefore better adapted to 
changing environments (habitats). American 
martens and fishers (habitat-limited carnivores) 
require late-successional coniferous forests. 
River otter and mink depend on riparian 
habitats. 

Predator populations are known to increase 
and decrease in response to prey availability. 
For example, a lynx's diet consists mainly of 
snowshoe hares. Snowshoe hares have a 9- 
to 10-year cycle. Consequently, lynx populations 
peak every 9 to 10 years with a lag year between 
the time that hare populations decline and lynx 
realize the declines. The relationship of prey 
base availability to carnivore populations is one 
of delicate balance. 

Ungulates 

Federal public lands are home to millions 
of big game animals, including large grazers 
such as elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed 
deer, bison, bighorn sheep, woodland and 
barren-ground caribou, pronghorn antelope, and 
mountain goats. These native ungulates are 
important for recreation and subsistence 
hunting, as prey for large carnivores, and as a 
reliable source of carrion for scavengers. Like 
other wildlife, wild ungulates are affected by 
natural disturbances and human activities. 



221 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Threatened, Endangered, 
Proposed, and Candidate Species 

Economic growth and development by a 
growing human population have depleted the 
habitat of many species to the extent that they 
are threatened with extinction. Enacted to 
conserve threatened and endangered species and 
the ecosystems on which they depend, the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Appendix C) 
separates species into four listing categories: 



• Endangered species are species in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant 
portion of their range. 

• Threatened species are those likely to 
become endangered within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion 
of their range. 

• Proposed species are those for which a 
proposed rule to list as endangered or 
threatened has been published in the Federal 
Register. 



Table 3-26. Numbers of Federally Endangered, Threatened, and Proposed Species on BLM-Managed 
Lands * 


ESA Listing 
Category 


Endangered 


Threatened 
Endangered 


Proposed 
Threatened 


Proposed 


Total 


Mollusks 

Arthropods 

Resident Fish 

Anadromous Fish 

Amphibians 

Reptiles 

Birds 

Mammals 

Plants 


8 
7 

40 
5 
3 
2 
11 
18 
51 


4 

5 
17 

9 

1 

7 
11 

5 
34 



1 
4 


1 
1 
2 
17 





3 


1 
2 
18 


9 

13 
61 
17 

4 
10 
24 
27 
120 


Total 


145 


90 


26 


24 


285 


Source: Data compiled from BLM field offices by the BLM Washington Office. 
'Includes all BLM-administered lands, not just the EIS study area. 



222 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Candidate species are taxa for which the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the 
National Marine Fisheries Service has on file 
enough information on biological 
vulnerability and threats to support issuing a 
proposed rule to list but where further action 
is precluded by higher priority listing. 

According to reports from BLM field 
offices and information compiled by BLM's 
Washington, Office, 285 species of plants and 
animals proposed or listed as threatened or 



endangered under the Endangered Species Act 
occur on land administered by BLM (Table 3- 
26). Public lands in each of the 1 1 western 
states are managed through state directors and 
field office managers. The number of proposed 
and listed species on public lands and acres 
open to location under the Mining Law within 
each state are summarized in Table 3-27. 
Appendix F includes a listing of species on all 
BLM-administered land compiled from field 
office reports. 



Table 3-27. Acres of Public land Open to Location under the Mining Law, and Number of Species on 




Public Land Protected by the Endangered Species Act 








Number of species on Public Land that are Federally Proposed (P) or listec 


as 


State 


Acres' 

(millions) 


Threatened (T) or Endangered (E) Under the Endangered Species Act 




Plants 


Animals 


P 


T 


E 


P 


T 


E 


Alaska 


86.5 











1 


4 




1 


Arizonaa 


13.6 





5 


10 





9 




27 


California 


9.1 


2 


15 


24 


5 


17 




29 


Colorado 


7.3 


1 


4 


5 


1 


8 




14 


Idaho 


11.2 





4 








9 




12 


Montana 


6.1 











1 


5 




8 


Nevada 


47.7 





7 


2 


1 


8 




20 


New Mexico 


12.4 





4 


7 


1 


9 




20 


Oregon/Washington 


13.4 





6 


9 


3 


20 




17 


Utah 


21.1 





11 


7 


1 


6 




12 


Wyoming 


15.2 


2 


1 





1 


5 




14 


'Approximate acres of public land open to mining from Table 1-4 in Public Land Statistics 1999 (BLM 2000a). 




columns 5 and 6 were subtracted from the Grand Total Column to determine acres open to mining. 




2 The 1,635,000 acres for the Barry M. Goldwater air Force Range (Hempel 1999) were subtracted from Columr 


6 


before determining acres open to mining. 





223 



Chapter ] — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



In addition to species listed under the 
Endangered Species Act, many state wildlife 
agencies have their own lists of threatened, 
endangered, or sensitive species. Through 
policy, BLM manages public lands to conserve 
federally and state-listed species. Furthermore, 
BLM state directors are responsible for 
establishing lists of special status species that 
occur on public land and for carrying out 
programs and actions that conserve these 
species and prevent the need to list them as 
threatened or endangered under the Endangered 
Species Act (IM #97-118). According to BLM 
policy, approved land use must not contribute to 
the need to list species as threatened or 
endangered. Species proposed for federal listing 
as threatened or endangered and proposed 
critical habitat are to be managed with the same 
level of protection provided for threatened and 
endangered species, but formal consultations 
are not required. 

Effects of Mining on Wildlife 

Habitat Loss. Habitat loss is one of the 
main threats to maintaining wildlife diversity 
and species richness (Wilcove and others 1998; 
Fahrig 1997; Soule 1986). All mining results in 
the loss of habitat at some time and for varying 
lengths of time (depending upon reclamation). 
Mining causes short- and long-term impacts to 
nesting, forage, and thermal and migration 
cover on mining sites until the disturbed 
habitats are returned to a condition suitable for 
a particular species and life stage. 

Ireland and others (1994) studied the 
recolonization of wildlife on a coal strip mine 
in northwest New Mexico and reported that 
some habitat that existed before mining was 
being replaced by reclamation on the Pittsburg 
and Midway Coal Mining Company's 
McKinley Mine. Wildlife species selected for 
study in the newly created habitat included 
amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and 
arthropods. 

Vegetation composition and the presence of 
rocks were determined to be important 
components for some wildlife species, 
particularly habitat specialists. Slow 



regeneration of piny on and juniper may have 
excluded some species for decades after 
mining. Although the study was conducted on a 
coal mine, similar results would be expected for 
other surface mining. 

Several waterfowl species are apt to occur 
in any given area or habitat. Because most of 
these species have distributions that are wide 
relative to any single mining activity, single 
actions are generally not likely to noticeably 
reduce their populations. But the cumulative 
impact of multiple mines could have significant 
effects, especially if those effects occur in 
isolated geographic areas and vegetation types 
that are population sources for a given species. 

Actual or potential degradation of any 
riparian or wetland area is a serious concern for 
shorebirds and other wetland-dependent 
migratory birds, even on a site no larger than a 
few acres. Even more so than for waterfowl, 
shorebirds tend to form large aggregations 
during spring and fall migration. At these times, 
significant proportions of entire populations 
may be in one small area (e.g. on only a few 
acres), where they are vulnerable to harm from 
contaminated soil or water. Locations used by 
migratory flocks may vary from year to year, 
depending on local, regional, and national 
climatic fluctuations. Large numbers of birds 
might unexpectedly visit any site with the 
proper general characteristics. 

Mining's destruction of the wetland habitats 
of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wetland- 
dependent migratory birds can and are being 
mitigated to an extent by creating mine- 
associated wetlands. In a study of emergent 
wetlands on surface coal mines is Illinois, 
Horstman and others (1998) and McKinstry and 
Anderson (1994) reported that mine-associated 
wetlands with persistent hydrology and large 
expanses of emergent vegetation may provide 
habitat to compensate for the loss of natural 
wetlands. 

According to Braun (1998), the developing 
of open pit mines harms sage grouse numbers 
and habitats in the short term. But several 
studies (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado) found 
some recovery of sage grouse populations after 
the initial development through the completion 



224 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



of reclamation (Eng and others 1979; Tate and 
others 1979; Colenso and others 1980; Scott 
and Zimmerman 1984, Braun 1986). Despite 
this positive note, Braun (1998) stated that no 
evidence to date suggests sage grouse 
populations attain their previous size. A 
population may need 20 to 30 years to 
reestablish. 

Call (1979) observed that mineral 
development destroyed raptor nest sites, roost 
sites, and primary feeding areas. Measures for 
mitigating loss of raptor habitat have included 
creating artificial nests, relocating nests, and the 
retaining highwalls created by mining as new 
habitat (Postovit and Postovit 1987; Holthuijzen 
and others 1990). 

Abandoned underground mines have 
become key year-round resources for bats. Due 
to the colonial nature of most bats, bats are 
especially vulnerable to the altering or closing 
of old mines. Loss of a single mine hibernation 
site can affect a multistate region, eliminating 
many summer colonies of bats over thousands 
of square miles. 

Contemporary mines are usually in historic 
mining districts and can have major effects on 
bats. New sampling methods, such as drilling, 
may detect ore deposits missed by previous 
miners, and the ore is typically extracted by 
open pit mining. Open pit mining often destroy 
existing adits and shafts. Even exploratory 
drilling can greatly harm bats if it collapses 
mine entrances or underground workings (Tuttle 
and Taylor 1994; Idaho State Conservation 
Effort 1995). 

BLM has demonstrated its commitment to 
protecting bats and their habitat during a Plan 
of Operations amendment at the Marigold Mine 
near Battle Mountain, Nevada. The Plan 
amendment review revealed that potential 
impacts to bat habitat were likely (JBR 
Environmental Consultants, Inc. 1997). A later 
survey found five species of bats using old 
mine workings, three of them BLM-listed 
sensitive species. A mitigation plan was 
developed. The plan required the company to 
avoid the impact altogether, minimize impacts 
by conducting temporary exclusion, and 
designate more existing habitat for 



rehabilitation and protection by installing 
protective gates. 

Direct loss of habitat for big game, 
including both ungulates and carnivores, is an 
important issue when examining the impacts of 
surface mining. Habitat loss translates into a 
loss of forage and protective cover for animals. 
Ungulates, in particular, are closely tied to three 
basic habitats: summer range (calving areas), 
winter range, and migration corridors (Kuck 
1986). 

Research at a southeast Colorado military 
training area demonstrated the effect of habitat 
losses and alterations. Shaw and Diersing 
(1990) noted that pinyon-juniper and shrub 
vegetation densities were significantly reduced 
following military training. Grass species 
composition also shifted from perennial to 
annual vegetation, and the amount of bare 
ground increased. Stephenson and others (1996) 
found that these habitat alterations influenced 
mule deer movements. 

Researchers (Kuck 1986; Merrill and others 
1 994) have proposed management 
recommendations to reduce the effects of 
mining on big game and large carnivores: 

• Minimize habitat loss at mine sites. 

• Avoid impacts to migration corridors. 

• Protect critical habitats, such as wintering and 
calving areas. 

• Decrease harvests by reducing human- 
wildlife encounters. 

Where mining facilities are built, covered 
corridors, travel fences, and underpasses and 
overpasses should be installed to facilitate 
movement through the mine site (Merrill and 
others 1994; Noss and others 1996). 

Habitat Fragmentation. Habitat becomes 
fragmented when a large expanse of habitat is 
transformed into a number of smaller patches. 
Two components of habitat fragmentation are 
(1) reduction in total habitat area and (2) 
redistribution of the remaining area into 
disjunct fragments (which mainly affect 
dispersal and immigration rates) (Wilcove and 
others 1986; Fahrig and Merriam 1994; 
McCarthy and others 1997). Fragmentation 



225 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



threatens the stability and persistence of wild 
populations because the size and isolation of 
remaining habitats increase the probability of 
extinction through demographic, environmental, 
or genetic randomness (Wolff and others 1997). 

Sage grouse and other sagebrush obligate 
species are finicky toward habitat alterations 
because they so heavily depend on sagebrush. 
Fragmentation of habitat harms sage grouse if 
large openings (fragmented habitats) are created 
during mining. Braun (1998) found that 
openings larger than 150 to 200 meters would 
generally preclude use by sage grouse because 
they prefer to forage within 50 to 100 meters of 
escape cover. The environmental consequences 
of mining may be mitigated in part by 
mechanically treating alternative areas to 
provide suitable brood habitat on summer 
ranges. 

Habitat fragmentation from mining includes 
the building of roads and structures. Roads 
directly and indirectly affect wildlife by doing 
the following (Young 1994): 

• Impeding horizontal and vertical migration or 
dispersal. 

• Subdividing populations that were previously 
connected. 

• Increasing edge habitat. 

Road placement and design are key 
elements to address for protecting and 
conserving wildlife. Braun (1999) reported that 
important sage grouse habitat has not been 
considered in establishing many roads (for 
mining and other uses) and that, therefore, 
roads commonly transect brood habitat, winter 
habitat, and migration corridors. Increased 
traffic may increase wildlife deaths. Roads also 
increase disturbance caused by human presence 
and activities, making highly visible wildlife 
species more vulnerable to harvest and 
harassment (Cole and others 1997; Stussy and 
others 1994). 

Edge Effects. The creation of edge-the 
interface between adjoining plant community 
types-benefits some wildlife species. Many 
species are not adapted to edge habitats, and 
some are harmed. Road-edge habitats are hard- 



edged compared to natural edges, which tend to 
be soft-edged. Natural edges are less well 
defined, with vegetation types merging 
gradually from one community type to the 
other. But road edges tend to be abrupt, long- 
term, and more often disturbed. Road building 
increases air pollution, soil erosion, noise, 
direct vehicular fatalities, disturbance by human 
activities, and exotic species introductions. 
When combined, these factors create adverse 
habitat situations for many native species (Reed 
and others 1996). 

Brown-headed cowbirds provide a good 
example of how one species may benefit and 
another be harmed by the creation of edge 
habitat. These birds are brood parasites that lay 
their eggs in the nests of host species. Cowbirds 
prefer edge habitats such as woodland edges 
(Lowther 1993). They have experienced a large 
expansion in range due to the creation of more 
edge habitats with road building and other 
habitat fragmenting. Cowbirds can seriously 
reduce the reproductive success of other 
species, particularly those with small 
populations (willow flycatcher, black-capped 
vireo, least Bell's vireo). 

Predators that benefit from human activity 
(e.g. raccoons, coyotes, blue jays, crows, 
opossums, and feral cats) also tend to use edge 
habitats as foraging areas and often have a large 
adverse impact on bird populations (Robinson 
1992; Robinson and others 1995; Robinson and 
others 2000). 

Stress and other Disturbance Factors. 
Disturbance may physiologically and physically 
stress wildlife (Gabrielsen and Smith 1995). 
Ultimately, these responses may lead to 
increased mortality and decreased reproduction 
(Stephenson and others 1996). Two time 
periods are critical for many bird and mammal 
species: the immediate postnatal period in 
mammals and the breeding period in birds. 

Noise. Mining inherently creates noise. 
Noise affects wildlife in a generally negative 
way (Shaw 1978). Signal detection would be 
reduced in areas in which human-generated 
noise is likely to interfere with acoustical 
signaling by wildlife (Shaw 1978). Disturbance 
may elicit physiological and physical responses 



226 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



in wildlife, as may the disturbance caused by 
noise (Gabrielsen and Smith 1995). But some 
wildlife species adapt to noise over time. 

Potential impacts of disturbance to nesting 
raptors include the following (Fyfe and 
Olendorf 1976): 

• Nest desertion. 

• Damage to eggs or young caused by 
frightened adults. 

• Overexposure of eggs or young to heat or 
cold. 

• Missed feedings. 

• Premature fledgling of young. 

Call (1979) reported that frequent 
disturbance by mining can cause bald eagles to 
abandon their winter roosts or prevent them 
from using important feeding areas. The results 
of several raptor studies point to interspecific 
and intraspecific response differences, as well 
as differences by type of activity, season of 
year, and closeness to the disturbance (Bednarz 
1984; Ramakka 1988; Holthuijzen and others 
1990). 

A variety of techniques have been 
employed to avoid or mitigate potential impacts 
to raptors (Ramakka 1988). Common 
recommendations include temporal restrictions 
of activities, selective road closures, or buffer 
zones around nests and roosts to prevent nest 
abandonment. 

Bats are extremely vulnerable to 
disturbance. Entry to a winter bat roost during 
hibernation can trigger premature arousal and 
the depletion of fat reserves needed for winter 
survival. The disturbance of a maternity colony 
can cause mothers to abandon their young. The 
importance of such abandonment becomes 
apparent when considering that bats typically 
have one young per year. If an entire maternity 
colony is abandoned, the year's crop of young 
for that particular population would be lost 
(Brown and Berry 1991). 

Mining on or next to water sources used by 
bats may impair the foraging abilities of bats. 
Bats use echolocation to find prey and 
maneuver. Mackey and Barclay (1989) 
examined the influence of physical clutter and 



noise on the activity of bats over water. 
Responses of bats varied by species, but the 
overall results suggested that both clutter and 
the increased background noise of running 
water reduce the activity of some bats by 
impeding the detection and capture of prey. 

Responses of wild ungulates to disturbance, 
including the use of heavy equipment, vehicles, 
or human activities, may vary from subtle to 
extreme panic. Disturbance, therefore, may 
interfere with health, growth, and reproductive 
fitness of individual ungulates (Freddy and 
others 1986). 

MacArthur and others (1982) examined 
cardiac and behavioral responses of mountain 
sheep to human disturbances (people afoot, 
people with dogs, different approach paths, road 
traffic, and air traffic) at the Sheep River 
Wildlife Sanctuary in southwest Alberta. A 
person approaching sheep with a leashed dog 
elicited the greatest response. Canids are the 
traditional predators of sheep, and it is not 
surprising that a dog would evoke an increased 
heart rate. Sheep also responded to the 
approach of humans from unexpected 
directions. Few reactions to road traffic were 
noted. MacArthur and others (1982) concluded 
that these mountain sheep were partially 
habituated to humans as a result of human 
visitation to the sanctuary but premised that 
sheep in less habituated populations v/ould 
exhibit increased cardiac and behavioral 
responses. 

Stephenson and others (1996) examined the 
response of mule deer movements to military 
activity. Mule deer increased their home range 
size in response to military training. Geist 
(1978) observed that animals in a largely 
predictable environment have a low reactivity 
to disturbances. Deer on the military site 
probably exhibited greater response to 
disturbance because training exercises were 
more random and unpredictable and tanks and 
other tactical vehicles were not restricted to 
roads. 

Freddy and others (1986) found that mule 
deer were more disturbed by people on foot 
than by vehicles (snowmobiles). Responses to 
humans were longer and involved running more 



227 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



often, resulting in greater energy expenditure. 
As one would predict, mule deer response 
depended on the closeness of the disturbance to 
the deer. 

Kuck and others (1985) examined the 
response of elk to simulated mine disturbance 
in Idaho. Elk calves subject to human 
disturbance and to simulated mine noises 
showed significant responses by altering habitat 
use and movement. Elk responded to levels of 
disturbance by interposing topographic barriers 
between themselves and the disturbance. The 
increased energy costs of movements, escape, 
and stress caused by these frequent and 
unpredictable disturbances may be detrimental 
to elk calves. 

A serious consequence of persistent 
disturbance would be withdrawal of animals to 
marginal habitats where survival and 
productivity would be expected to diminish. 
Extrapolating from these studies, one could 
conclude that ungulates within the study area 
would be highly likely to respond similarly to 
mining. The mitigation measures discussed for 
habitat loss and fragmentation would help 
reduce the effects of mining-related disturbance. 

Introduced Species. Introduced (nonnative 
or exotic) species evolved elsewhere and have 
been transported and purposefully or 
accidentally disseminated by humans. These 
species disrupt the functioning of native 
ecosystems. Most exotics become pests by 
rapidly dispersing into communities in which 
they have not evolved and by displacing native 
species (Li 1995). Many noxious weeds thrive 
in disturbed areas where they may out compete 
native vegetation and form monocultures of 
invasive species (Soule 1990). When 
established, weeds may destroy thousands of 
acres of valuable wildlife habitat, making an 
area unsuitable for habitat-specific species. 

Pollution. Cyanide is used in mining 
operations for the extraction of gold and silver 
from ores because of its strong tendency to 
form complexes with metals. Cyanide is a 
general respiratory poison, but uptake of 
cyanide can also occur through ingestion or 
exposure to the skin. Cyanide is a potent and 



rapid-acting asphyxiant. It can produce 
reactions within seconds and death within 
minutes. Cyanide acts rapidly in aquatic 
systems, but it does not persist for extended 
periods. 

Cyanide is also highly species selective in 
its effects on organisms, including fish, birds, 
plants, and mammals. Cyanide inhibits ion 
transport mechanisms in amphibians. Wiemeyer 
and others (1986) found marked differences in 
toxicity of cyanide among species of birds. 
Study results found that species sensitivity to 
cyanide is not necessarily related to body size 
but to diet. Birds that feed predominantly on 
flesh were more sensitive to cyanide than 
species that feed on plants. 

A variety of studies examined toxicity 
levels of cyanide on wildlife (Clark and 
Hothem 1991; Henny and others 1994). In one 
study of cyanide extraction in gold mines in 
three states (AZ, CA, NV), rodents and bats 
respectively accounted for 35% and 34% of 
total mortality. Ten mammal species that are 
endangered, threatened, rare, protected, or of 
special concern (lesser long-nosed bat, long- 
tongued bat, spotted bat, pika, Mojave ground 
squirrel, wolverine, California leaf-nosed bat, 
Townsend's big-eared bat, pocketed free-tailed 
bat, and badger) were documented mortalities 
(Clark and Hothem 1991). 

Before the existing 3809 regulations were 
implemented, toxic concentrations of sodium 
cyanide, free cyanide, and metal cyanide 
complexes were readily accessible to a variety 
of wildlife. Wildlife died where cyanide 
solutions were open, such as in storage ponds, 
puddles on top of heaps, or flows in channels 
along the base of a heap to a pond. Most of the 
mortality was thought to be an acute response 
to ingestion of free or metal-bound cyanide. But 
inhalation and exposure to the skin were more 
important to aquatic species. 

Since the 3809 regulations have been in 
effect, many studies have focused on the effects 
of heap leach solutions and mill tailing ponds 
on migratory birds. Birds are especially 
vulnerable during migration, when large 
populations are concentrated on limited habitat. 



228 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



This vulnerability was demonstrated in 1988, 
when 1,459 migratory birds were killed at a 
gold mine (FWS 1990). 

Nevada reported that during the mid-1980s 
more than 9,500 birds, mammals, reptiles, and 
amphibians were found dead at mill tailings 
ponds and heap leach operations (Henny and 
others 1994b); 91% of the deaths consisted of 
birds, mainly waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls. 
In 1989 Nevada passed a wildlife law that 
developed a program through its artificial pond 
permitting to require industry to report wildlife 
mortalities and protect these resources. 

More recently, wildlife mortalities at mine 
sites in Nevada have decreased dramatically, 
from more than 2,000 individual animals in 986 
to just over 300 in 1993 and 1997 (Molini 
1998). To break these numbers down even 
further, less than 50% of these mortalities in 
1997 were caused by contact with permitted 
facilities (cyanide ponds or the nets and fences 
that cover them). A nearly four fold decrease in 
the number of bird mortalities has been 
estimated for the 7-year period (Molini 1998). 

Mine operators have begun to apply 
methods of protecting vertebrates from mine 
water poisoning by the following methods: 

• Using netting and plastic sheeting. 

• Applying dilution techniques to reduce 
cyanide concentrations. 

• Making collection channels inaccessible to 
wildlife (Canter and others 1991; Henny and 
others 1994b). 

A letter from the Nevada Division of 
Wildlife (Molini 1998) to "Interested Party" 
reported that wildlife mortality data show a 
substantial decline in all categories of animals 
except for a small increase in the number of 
waterfowl. The letter goes on to state, "Overall, 
wildlife mortalities associated with permitted 
facilities were down to the second lowest level 
recorded in the past ten years, 1 85 individuals." 
Although proven techniques exist for mitigating 
impacts to wildlife, some mines continue to use 
less effective techniques such as hazing, noise 
makers, and colored flagging (Clark and 
Hothem 1991). 



Powerlines. Powerlines for mining may 
both benefit and harm wildlife. Powerlines may 
benefit raptor species by providing roost sites, 
nest sites, and prey surveillance. Conversely, 
these same powerlines may electrocute raptors 
or kill them when they crash into poles 
(Bevanger 1994; Faanes 1987). The following 
avian groups have been represented in counts of 
dead birds at powerline poles: waterfowl, gulls, 
cranes, shorebirds, rails and coots, cormorants, 
blackbirds, grebes, grouse, pelicans, raptors, 
doves, herons, woodpeckers, and other 
passerine birds. Although none of the mortality 
was considered to be biologically significant 
(Faanes 1987), the cumulative effects of 
mortality may be important to populations of 
rare or endangered species. 

Bevanger (1994) reviewed published 
reports on powerlines. Storks, falcons, owls, 
and passerine birds were the most often 
reported victims of electrocution. Cranes, 
pelicans, storks, and grouse deaths were 
reported in excessive numbers from flying into 
these lines. Bevanger also points out that, 
although information is lacking to show that 
utility structures are a significant cause of 
death, powerlines are a serious cause of 
mortality for some listed species (whooping 
crane, peregrine falcon, Mexican spotted owl, 
northern spotted owl, brown pelican, wood 
stork). The above studies did not state whether 
these powerlines were for mining but are 
simply compilations of reported mortalities. 

Netcher (1998) estimated that only about 
half of mines have powerlines. For mines with 
powerlines a variety of mitigation measures can 
be used to reduce electrocutions, including new 
power pole designs and modifications (Postovit 
and Postovit 1987). Three categories of 
modifications can mitigate powerline impacts: 

• Designing and modifying poles, crossarms, 
and conductor placement to adequately 
separate energized parts. 

• Insulating wires and other hardware where 
separation is impossible. 

• Managing raptor perching. 



229 



Chapter ] — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Wildlife may be harmed by raptor use of 
utility structures for hunting. Sage grouse are 
heavily affected by raptor predation. Braun 
(1998) reported that sage grouse numbers and 
use increase as distance from the powerlines 
increase. 

State Wildlife Protection Statutes 

According to the Center for Wildlife Law 
and the Defenders of Wildlife (1998), state 
endangered species act provisions exist in 9 of 
the 11 study area states (see Appendix D). Utah 
and Wyoming are the exceptions, but they both 
have provisions for protecting wildlife. For the 
nine states with endangered species laws, all are 
dated between 1969 and 1976. California and 
New Mexico are the only states to require 
recovery plans. California and Oregon are the 
only states that require consultation for state- 
listed species. Despite the efforts of each state, 
few state acts provide effective programs for 
protecting threatened and endangered species. 

Historically, states were given the role of 
protecting the wildlife within their borders. 
State governments have traditionally served as 
the stewards of wildlife. Today, they retain this 
responsibility, but the Federal Government has 
assumed primary responsibility for species 
protected by the Endangered Species Act 
(Center for Wildlife Law and the Defenders of 
Wildlife 1998). 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common To All 
Alternatives 

Direct Effects. Disturbances may benefit 
some species while harming others. Disturbance 
of habitat always causes short-term impacts and 
may cause long-term impacts, depending on the 
following: 

• Length of time before reclamation 
prescriptions are applied to a site. 

• Length of time for vegetation to become 
established. 



• The suitability of vegetation to fulfill species- 
specific habitat requirements. 

Indirect Effects. Indirect impacts of 
mineral activities would generally be those that 
do not occur immediately. Indirect effects can 
occur to the area directly affected by the 
mineral activity or to an adjacent area. Such 
effects could include loss of habitat or degraded 
habitat condition for proposed or listed species 
from the long time frames required for site 
reclamation. 

Public access to mined areas is expected to 
increase because of the attraction created by 
mining and the building of new roads. 

A significant percentage of the unimproved 
and sometimes improved roads on public lands 
have resulted from the direct and indirect 
effects of mining since the passage of the 
Mining Law. Thus, route proliferation and 
habitat fragmentation become issues when they 
affect proposed and listed species and proposed 
and designated critical habitats. Increased 
vehicular access might result in new and 
sustained impacts to ecosystems that support 
proposed and listed species. In some cases, the 
disturbance to proposed and listed species 
might be greater than during mining because of 
the diversity of activities allowed by access 
(exploring, shooting, hunting, collecting, 
camping). 

Through the land use planning process, 
BLM will address vehicle use management and 
designate lands as open, limited, and closed to 
off-road vehicle (ORV) use. Another 
category-undesignated-allows for unlimited 
vehicle use pending a final decision. Most of 
the public lands are in an open or undesignated 
category for ORV use. These designations are 
expected to change through land use planning 
decisions and a new effort by BLM to manage 
ORV use to protect natural and cultural 
resources. Threatened or endangered species 
issues caused by ORVs during casual use are 
directly related to the adequacy of decisions 
under the ORV regulations (43 CFR 8340) 
rather than to the surface management 
regulations (43 CFR 3809). 



230 



Chapter I — Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Alternative 1: No Action 

Notice-level activities would continue 
under the existing regulations. Because they do 
not constitute federal actions, such activities do 
not require Section 7 consultation under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA). Section 7 
requires federal agencies to ensure that their 
actions (including permitting) are not likely to 
jeopardize the existence of a listed species 
(plant or animal) or destroy or modify critical 
habitat. Without consultation, it is difficult to 
prevent or mitigate harm to threatened and 
endangered species. Therefore, No Action 
presents a potential for the taking of threatened 
or endangered species. 

Financial guarantees are not required for 
Notice-level operations under the existing 
regulations, and some operators might abandon 
their operations without reclaiming them. Since 
1981, failure to reclaim has accounted for about 
67% of all notices of noncompliance. Where 
sites are not properly reclaimed or not 
reclaimed in a timely manner, wildlife habitat 
would continue to be lost, fragmented, or 
otherwise degraded. 

Casual use is not subject to agency 
notification. Without notification, BLM cannot 
determine if the casual use might harm 
threatened or endangered species. Even though 
casual use involves minimal surface 
disturbance, cumulative disturbance has caused 
harm. In one case digging for dry placers by a 
recreational mining club left open holes large 
enough to trap desert tortoises. Harm might 
even result from a single incident of casual use 
such as digging with hand tools where an 
endangered species is confined to a single 
location at a unique seep or spring. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Regulations would vary by state under 
Alternative 2. Without a set of comprehensive 
federal regulations, the overall protection and 
restoration of wildlife and habitat would 
decrease. Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada do not 
require permits for operations disturbing less 
than 5 acres. Idaho requires documentation of 
activities for exploration involving less than 5 



acres, but not until after the activity has ended. 
Without notification, it would be difficult for 
state agencies to protect wildlife and their 
habitats and enforce reclamation. 

Under Alternative 2 weed control would 
depend on state and local efforts. The lack of a 
comprehensive policy would likely increase the 
potential for infestations. An increase in the 
spread of weeds would harm biodiversity, 
habitat quality, and ecosystem functions, and 
have the potential to decrease native wildlife 
populations. 

Mineral operations under Alternative 2 
would no longer consist of federal and would 
not be subject to consultation under Section 7 
of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Section 
7 requires federal agencies to ensure that their 
actions (including permitting) are not likely to 
jeopardize the existence of listed plant or 
animal species or destroy or modify critical 
habitat. Without consultation, it would be much 
more difficult to prevent or mitigate harm to 
threatened and endangered species than under 
the existing regulations. Therefore, Alternative 
2 would increase the likelihood of the taking of 
species. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

The strengthened performance standards in 
Alternative 3 for vegetation, soils, wildlife, and 
riparian-wetland resources would result in 
better wildlife protection and habitat restoration 
and help maintain wildlife populations at 
present levels. 

Under the proposed regulations, all mining 
and milling projects would require Plans of 
Operations, resulting in a more formal review 
and approval of activities. This added planning 
should promote better restoration of wildlife 
habitat than the existing regulations. In 
addition, all mining and milling would be 
federal actions and subject to consultation under 
Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The 
likelihood of operations taking endangered or 
threatened species would decrease. 

Under Alternative 3, BLM would have 
more discretion in determining the types of 
impacts operators could cause. BLM could 



231 



Chapter 2 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



prohibit operations that would cause substantial 
irreparable and unmitigatable harm to 
significant resources. Given this discretion, 
Alternative 3 would help maintain population 
levels of threatened and endangered wildlife 
species at their current levels. 

BLM could establish areas where operators 
must contact BLM before beginning their 
operations. BLM would then determine whether 
Notices or Plans are required. The provision 
was designed to protect wildlife, especially, 
threatened and endangered species, from the 
cumulative impacts of casual use's causing 
more than negligible disturbance. The required 
notification would better protect wildlife from 
unnecessary and undue degradation and help 
maintain population levels of threatened and 
endangered species at their current levels. 

The Proposed Action would require 
reclamation bonds for all Notice-level 
operations. This financial assurance should 
prompt better compliance by operators than 
would the existing regulations in reclaiming and 
restoring wildlife habitat. Moreover, should the 
operator default, BLM would have funds to 
reclaim and restore wildlife habitat. 

Under Alternative 3, inspections and 
monitoring of operations would become 
mandatory four times annually where cyanide is 
used or where acid rock drainage is occurring 
or might occur. Such monitoring and inspection 
would alert managers to potential wildlife 
hazards and decrease wildlife deaths from what 
would result under the existing regulations. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would require that vegetation 
on reclaimed areas be long lasting, self- 
sustaining, and comparable in diversity and 
density to the preexisting natural vegetation, 
and achieve 90% of the canopy cover of 
adjacent, undisturbed lands. Alternative 4 would 
also require that only native plants be used for 
revegetation. Riparian areas would also have to 
be restored to proper functioning condition 
within 10 years. These requirements would help 
restore wildlife habitat to conditions similar to 



or better than the preexisting plant community 
and would help increase the likelihood of 
maintaining population levels of wildlife 
species at their current levels. 

Alternative 4 would eliminate Notices, and 
all projects causing more than negligible 
disturbance would require Plans of Operations. 
This change would result in a more formal 
review and approval of activities. The added 
planning should promote better wildlife habitat 
restoration than would the existing regulations. 
In addition, all projects beyond casual use 
would be federal actions and subject to 
consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered 
Species Act, resulting in a decrease in the 
likelihood of the talcing of endangered or 
threatened species. 

Under Alternative 4, operators could not 
jeopardize special status species and cause them 
to be listed as threatened or endangered. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5, all mining and milling 
would require Plans of Operations, resulting in 
a more formal review and approval of mineral 
activities. This added planning should promote 
better restoration of wildlife habitat than would 
the existing regulations. In addition, all mining 
and milling would therefore be considered 
federal actions and subject to consultation under 
Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The 
result would be a decrease in the likelihood of 
the taking of endangered or threatened species. 

Alternative 5 would require reclamation 
bonds for all Notices. This financial assurance 
should prompt better compliance by operators 
than would the existing regulations in 
reclaiming and restoring wildlife habitat. 
Moreover, should operators default, BLM 
would have funds to reclaim and restore 
wildlife habitat. 

Cumulative and Residual Impacts 
to Wildlife Resources 

In the first 17 years after the 3809 
regulations went into effect in 1981, exploration 
and mining disturbed an estimated 214,000 



232 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



acres of public lands. Projections for mineral 
activities over the next 20 years show that 
mineral operations under the existing 
regulations and alternatives would disturb as 
much as 183,000 more acres. The total surface 
disturbance on vegetation from past and 
reasonably foreseeable mineral activities over 
the final EIS period, therefore, would equal as 
much as 400,000 acres. This amount represents 
about 0.12% of the total acreage of public lands 
and Stock Raising Homestead Act lands 
administered by BLM within the study area (see 
Table 3-1). The cumulative impacts from 
mining and exploration on wildlife within the 
study area would therefore be limited. 

Residual impacts on wildlife habitat would 
affect the 400,000 acres directly disturbed by 
mineral activities. As discussed in the 
vegetation and soil sections, mining usually 
changes the original soil profile, which 
ordinarily requires hundreds to tens of 
thousands of years to develop. Mining might 
therefore yield soil substrates that greatly differ 
from what was there before mining. 

These differing substrates might affect the 
rate of succession or completely alter it. 
Different trajectories of succession are therefore 
possible, and this altered succession represents 
a loss of wildlife habitat that existed on the site 
before mining. Alternative 4 would require 
more of the soil profile to be salvaged than 
would the other alternatives, resulting in a 
better chance of establishing similar substrates 
able to support vegetation and wildlife habitat 
similar to what existed on a site before mining. 

Wild Horses and 
Burros 

Affected Environment 

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro 
Act of 1971 requires wild horses and burros to 
be managed at proper management levels and 
prohibits their relocation to areas where they 
had not lived before 1971. One of the act's 
goals is to manage populations to create a 



thriving natural ecological balance on public 
lands. Proper management levels have not been 
set for all herd management areas but are 
estimated to be 23,500 wild horses and 3,600 
wild burros. 

In October 1997 about 37,600 wild horses 
and 5,400 wild burros inhabited some 200 herd 
management areas (HMAs) on federal land in 
Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, 
Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and 
Wyoming. BLM manages HMAs whose 
populations exceed proper management levels 
to reduce populations by selective removals, 
including adoptions, fertility control, and 
natural mortality. 

Normally, wild horses almost exclusively 
eat grasses. Burros have a more diverse diet of 
grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Wild horses and 
burros graze throughout their HMAs, including 
upland and riparian areas. Both wild horses and 
burros migrate short distances during seasonal 
movements. 

The most critical time of year is in the 
spring during foaling. The social dynamics of 
wild horse herds, such as competition between 
stallions, causes dispersion. Wild burros tend to 
disperse as water becomes plentiful. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

Mines operating within herd management 
areas (HMAs) might harm wild horses and 
burros. Exploration and mining might reduce 
forage and restrict access to some water 
sources. Mine dewatering might also reduce 
water supplies. Increases in noise and vehicular 
traffic and the presence of humans in these 
areas might force herds to move to other areas. 
Horse and burro sensitivity to such activity 
would be most acute during spring foaling. 
Animal and human safety are also concerns, 
mainly along access roads that cross HMAs. 



233 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Alternative 1: No Action 

Herds could be displaced by noise, vehicle 
traffic, human presence, or loss of forage or 
water sources. Water sources could be lost by 
restricted access or dewatering. Sensitivity 
would be most acute during spring foaling. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Impacts under State Management would be 
the same as under the existing regulations. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Under Alternative 3 mining would have to 
comply with provisions of approved BLM land 
use plans, providing that compliance does not 
impair claimant rights under the Mining Law. 
In the foreseeable future, provisions could be 
added to land use plans to limit the amount, 
type, or timing of mining in HMAs. Affected 
wild horse and burro populations would benefit 
from limiting use of heavy equipment, drilling, 
blasting, and truck traffic within HMAs. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Under Alternative 4 mining would have to 
comply with provisions of approved BLM land 
use plans. In the foreseeable future, provisions 
could be added to land use plans to limit the 
amount, type, or timing of mining in HMAs. 
Affected wild horse and burro populations 
would benefit from limiting use of heavy 
equipment, drilling, blasting, and truck traffic 
within HMAs 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Under Alternative 5 mining would affect 
wild horses and burros much as would 
Alternative 1 but would have to comply with 
approved land use plans. Range resources 
would have more protection than under the 
Alternative 1 through the requirement of 
comprehensive Plans of Operations for all 
mineral activities except exploration and casual 
use. 



Livestock Grazing 

Affected Environment 

Livestock grazing is one of the major land 
uses within the study area. BLM administers 
livestock grazing on federal lands under the 
authority of the Taylor Grazing Act. Other laws 
that govern livestock grazing on federal lands 
include the Bankhead- Jones Farm Tenant Act, 
National Environmental Policy Act, Federal 
Land Policy and Management Act, and Public 
Rangelands Improvement Act. BLM authorizes 
more than 9.4 million animal unit months 
(AUMs) of livestock forage on public lands in 
the study area (excluding Alaska) on 21,600 
allotments covering nearly 161 million acres. 

Since 1981, mineral activities on public 
lands have disturbed about 214,000 acres in the 
study area. Although we do not know how 
many AUMs of forage have been lost due to 
mining since 1981, an estimated 10,000 AUMs 
(0.1% of current AUMs authorized) have been 
irretrievably lost to mining on the basis of the 
following assumptions: 

• Livestock consume 1 AUM for every 20 acres 
(161 million acres in allotments divided by 
9.4 million AUMs). 

• Livestock graze all acres in allotments. 

• Livestock grazed all acres previously 
disturbed by mining. 

These are restrictive assumptions that 
greatly overstate the likely actual impact 
because livestock do not graze all acres in 
allotments, livestock did not graze all acres 
previously disturbed by mining, and not all 
disturbance where grazing does occur results in 
a loss of AUMs. Nevertheless, this estimate 
gives a perspective on the general size of the 
impact. 

Environmental Consequences 

Much of the information in the following 
discussion was derived from the Stone Cabin 
Mine Final EIS (BLM 1994c). The impacts 
discussed would be common to all alternatives. 



234 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Impacts on livestock grazing from any of 
the alternatives could result from the following: 

• Direct and indirect displacement of grazing. 

• Conflicts with traffic. 

• Blockage of livestock access. 

These impacts would not generally be 
attributable to a single mine component but 
might result from the aggregate of all mine 
components and related activities. 

Removal of vegetation during mine 
construction and operations would directly 
replace livestock grazing. In addition, a larger 
area would be affected where mine features are 
fenced. When mining operations are developed 
where livestock graze public land, BLM must 
sometimes reduce permitted use. Under these 
circumstances, grazing permits and leases are 
permanently adjusted, as provided for in the 
grazing management regulations. Generally, 
these reductions are not restored following 
reclamation of mining sites. 

Mine developments would also directly or 
indirectly displace rangeland improvements. 
Fences separating grazing allotments and 
pastures might be disrupted. Fences would have 
to be realigned. Or new fences, cattle guards, or 
other devices would be installed to maintain the 
integrity of allotments, pastures, and ownership 
during all phases of mining. Without these 
steps, cattle from different allotments and 
pastures would mix. In addition, important 
livestock watering ponds, springs, and devices 
might also be degraded. 

Airborne dust would likely reduce 
vegetation productivity and palatability 
downwind of and immediately next to mines 
and travel routes. But most dust generated 
would settle within fenced areas, reducing 
impacts on livestock. 

Cattle displaced from mine developments 
would tend to concentrate in other preferred 
areas, most likely near water sources, including 
wetland and riparian areas. 

Mine traffic is expected to increase, 
resulting in possible livestock losses and 
damage to vehicles. 



Long-term impacts to grazing include direct 
displacement by unreclaimed or unsuccessfully 
reclaimed areas. Additionally, reclaimed acres 
could not be grazed for several growing seasons 
until grasses and forbs become established. In 
some areas grazing would never resume 
because permanent changes in topography 
could not accommodate livestock. 
Reestablishing grazing too quickly in these 
areas would endanger the success of 
revegetation by overgrazing susceptible young 
plants. 

Until vegetation becomes established, these 
areas would provide only a fraction of the 
carrying capacity of similar undisturbed areas. 
Grazing would be further delayed on a portion 
of the revegetated areas because to become 
successful, some revegetation would probably 
need reseeding. 

Fences and other range improvements 
would be restored to as close to premining 
conditions as practicable. Fences around mine 
features would be removed at some point after 
reclamation. 

With closure and reclamation, all mining 
would cease. Therefore, some grazing might be 
restored, but, depending on the type of mining, 
grazing would not be restored to previous 
levels. Therefore, some forage losses would be 
irreversible. 

For the most part, access through mined 
areas would be improved by the presence of 
mine roads that are not reclaimed. This 
improved access would increase recreational 
travel through mined areas. Some of the other 
access roads blocked by mines would also be 
reopened. New traffic would increase the 
probability of conflicts between livestock and 
people engaging in recreation. The effects of 
such conflicts cannot be reliably predicted. 

Special Status Areas 

Affected Environment 

Special status areas are lands that BLM has 
determined have resources of unique or distinct 
value. These lands have a variety of 
designations, depending on the authority under 



235 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



which they were designated and the resources 
present. Some special status areas are open to 
mineral activity under the Mining Law or, if 
closed, contain mining claims that may have 
prior rights for mineral development. 

Special status areas where exploration and 
mining are subject to the 3809 regulations 
include the following: 

• Areas of critical environmental concern 
(ACECs). 

• Lands in the California Desert Conservation 
Area (CDCA) designated as controlled or 
limited use areas. 

• Areas in or designated for potential addition 
to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers 
System. 

• Areas closed to off-road vehicle use. 

• Designated wilderness areas. 

Resources that contribute to the designation 
of these areas are diverse. Special status areas 
may be designated to protect a wide variety of 
resources, such as sensitive plants, wilderness 
characteristics, scenic vistas, geothermal 
features, or American Indian sacred sites. 
Special status areas may also be designated 
because of potential hazards such as abandoned 
mines or hazardous materials. The potentially 
affected resources in special status areas are 
some of the most valuable and significant 
resources found on BLM-managed lands. A 
comprehensive description of all resources in 
BLM special status areas would be exhaustive. 

As of September 30, 1999, a total of 740 
designated areas of critical environmental 
concern (ACECs) covered about 13.1 million 
acres of public land managed by BLM (BLM 
2000a). Some of these ACECs are closed to 
activity under the Mining Law, or are closed 
but contain mining claims with prior mineral 
development rights. Other ACECs have been 
left open to the operation of the mining laws 
with the 3809 regulations used to manage 
mineral activity in concert with the ACEC 
resources. 

There are 34 BLM-administered rivers in 
the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System 
with more than 2,000 river miles and 998,468 



acres under protection (BLM 2000a). Some 
lands in the system are open for operations 
under the mining laws or have prior 
development rights that are subject to the 3809 
regulations. 

BLM manages 5,243,332 acres of 
wilderness in the United States (BLM 2000a). 
These areas are all closed to activity under the 
Mining Law, but some areas have mining 
claims with prior development rights under the 
mining laws. Mining activities in wilderness 
areas with prior development rights under the 
mining laws would be regulated by the 3809 
regulations. 

Environmental 



Consequences 



Impacts to special status areas would 
depend on the impact to the particular resource 
that led to the area's nomination or designation. 
This discussion considers changes in the 
definition of what the regulations consider a 
special status area and standards the 3809 
regulations provide for the resources within 
special status areas. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

The existing regulations require operations 
in the California Desert Conservation Area, in 
wilderness areas, and along wild and scenic 
rivers to meet the statutory level of protection 
or reclamation required by the establishing act. 
Impacts from operations in these areas can and 
have been conditioned to meet these 
requirements. This provision would continue to 
prevent impacts to resources in these areas as 
required by the areas' establishing authority. 
This provision would also preserve the 
resources that supported the areas' special status 
designation. 

The existing regulations do not require a 
higher standard for resource protection in areas 
of critical environmental concern (ACECs) or 
areas closed to off-road vehicles (ORVs). Any 
mineral activity greater than casual use would 
continue to require an approved Plan of 
Operations. The Plan review and approval 



236 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



process would allow mitigation to be designed 
to protect resources in the special status area. 
But the performance standard is still based on 
the requirement to prevent unnecessary or 
undue degradation. There is no higher standard 
for environmental protection in these areas 
similar to areas designated by statute. 

In the past this lack of higher standards has 
occasionally resulted in impacts to the resources 
that supported designation of the ACEC or 
ORV closure. These potential resource conflicts 
would continue to occur on a site-specific basis. 
In extreme cases the resources that resulted in 
ACEC designation could be significantly 
affected. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

The levels of protection or reclamation 
required by statute would continue to apply to 
some special status lands. State regulatory 
agencies would administer these requirements, 
but enforcing these requirements without BLM 
review and approval of individual Plans might 
result in some projects not meeting statutory 
requirements for resource protection. 

Impacts to resources in ACECs or areas 
closed to ORV use would depend on the 
efficiency of the state regulatory programs and 
be highly site specific. Land use or activity 
plans would guide the states on special values 
of concern. But without BLM review and 
approval, the potential is likely to increase for 
mineral activities to harm resources in these 
special status areas. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

The proposed regulations would continue to 
give the same level of resource protection to 
special status areas as designated by statute. 
Expanding the list of special status areas to 
include certain threatened or endangered 
wildlife habitat, national monuments, and 
national conservation areas would improve 
protection of sensitive resources. By requiring a 
Plan of Operations for activity that previously 
could occur under a Notice, the Proposed 
Action would add review times and analysis 



requirements that would likely improve 
protection of these resources. 

The proposed performance standards would 
provide a tie to land use plans. This tie would 
result in specific consideration of the resources 
in special status areas and is likely to more 
effectively mitigate potential impacts to these 
resources. 

The proposed regulations would reduce the 
potential for environmental impacts to resources 
in special status areas because of the following: 

• More stringent performance standards 
(including the new definition of unnecessary 
or undue degradation). 

• Plan review requirements. 

• Predicted decrease in mineral activity. 

But the potential remains for these areas to 
be affected if they are open to mineral activity. 
Should the proposed mineral activity be 
determined to constitute substantial irreparable 
and unmitigatable harm to significant resources, 
then BLM would deny the Plan of Operations. 
Such action is most likely to occur in special 
status areas because these areas were usually 
designated because of their significant or 
sensitive resources. The requirement to prevent 
substantial irreparable harm would give a high 
level of protection to resources in special status 
areas. Therefore, mineral development would 
not jeopardize the resources that led to the 
special status area designation. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Alternative 4 would protect resources in 
special status areas designated by statute. 
Mandatory conformance with land use plans 
would prevent impacts to these areas. Land use 
plans would provide prescriptions to ensure that 
the resources that led to the special status area 
designation are not affected. In addition, the 
requirements to prevent irreparable harm to 
resources would allow BLM to preclude 
activities that would affect special status areas 
and their resources. Alternative 4 would give a 



237 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



slightly higher level of protection for special 
status areas than would the Proposed Action. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Alternative 5 would not expand the list of 
special status areas but would require a Plan of 
Operations for all mining. Certain areas that 
would have been special status areas under the 
Proposed Action, such as valuable wildlife 
habitat, national monuments, and national 
conservation areas, would still receive increased 
protection from mining through the Plan of 
Operations review process, but not from a 
change in performance standards. Exploration 
creating less than 5 acres of disturbance could 
still occur in these areas under Notices. But this 
provision is not likely to have a significant 
impact because of exploration's more limited 
disturbance size, duration, and reclaimability 
when compared to mining. In addition, the 
provision to bond Notice-level operations 
would assure reclamation of disturbance in 
these areas. 

The existing performance standards and 
continued use of the existing definition of 
unnecessary or undue degradation under 
Alternative 5 would not preclude mining from 
significantly affecting some special status areas 
that are not protected by other legal authorities. 
Though such occurrences would be rare, if due 
or necessary for mine development, disturbance 
could significantly degrade the resources for 
which some special status areas were 
designated. 



Recreation 



Affected Environment 

BLM manages public lands for a variety of 
recreation uses, including hunting, fishing, rock 
collecting, camping, sightseeing, hiking, winter 
sports, and off-road vehicle (ORV) use. Most 
recreation use depends on the natural and 
cultural features of the land. Public lands in the 
study area are renowned for their diverse scenic 
and visual resources. Generally good air quality 
and dramatic topography combine to create 



spectacular vistas. The popularity of scenic and 
backcountry byways and scenic overlooks 
illustrates the value and appreciation of scenic 
quality. 

Federal lands have a growing number and 
diversity of visitors seeking recreation (Cordell 
and others 1989). On BLM-administered lands 
during 1996, recorded recreation use exceeded 
72 million visitor days. Projections show that 
these numbers will continue to grow, 
particularly for camping, sightseeing, hiking, 
ORV use, and winter sports (Environmental 
Resources Assessment Group 1997). 

At the same time, access to federal lands is 
an increasing problem in many western states, 
particularly where private lands must be crossed 
to reach federal lands. Access is being lost 
where ranches are bought for recreation and 
recreation homesites; ranchers lease their land 
to outfitters and close it to others; or ranchers 
are attempting to avoid vandalism, litter, or 
open gates. 

Maintenance of recreational resources on 
federal land is important for "quality-of-life" 
issues. Research on the effects of participation 
in outdoor recreation show such benefits as 
improved physical and mental health, increased 
self-esteem, an enhanced sense of well-being, 
and spiritual growth. Participation in outdoor 
activities can also increase family interaction 
and foster cohesion. Benefits to communities 
include increased social solidarity, satisfaction 
with community life, and increased ethnic and 
cultural understanding (Cordell and others 
1989). The same report also cites some of the 
major issues facing recreation today: 

• Protecting resources and open space. 

• Acquiring more land and water to meet 
expected demand. 

• Resolving conflicts among diverse users. 

• Addressing the need for more access to 
outdoor recreation areas. 

An inventory of an area's wildland 
recreational settings based on its physical, 
social, and managerial attributes is the basis for 
the recreational opportunity spectrum (ROS). 
These attributes combine to produce recreation 



238 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



opportunities that have three components: an 
activity, a resource setting, and an experiential 
component. By combinations of these attributes, 
lands can be characterized by a continuum of 
recreational opportunity classes, including 
primitive, semiprimitive nonmotorized, 
semiprimitive motorized, roaded natural, rural, 
and urban. 

Primitive settings have essentially 
unmodified natural environments. Their size 
and configuration assure remoteness from the 
sights and sounds of human activity. The use of 
motorized vehicles and equipment is not 
permitted in primitive settings except in 
extreme emergencies. Moreover, the user is 
forced to be self-reliant and expects to see few 
people. 

At the opposite end of the continuum, urban 
settings have high levels of human activity and 
concentrated development, including 
developments for recreation opportunities. 
Urban settings also have a preponderance of 
signs and other indications of regulations on 
user behavior. 

The opportunity classes serve as an 
inventory tool for current recreation conditions 
and visitor expectations. Because mineral 
development could lead to changes in these 
settings, opportunity classes serve as a useful 
measure to help describe the consequences of 
such development. (USFS 1990; Montana Dept. 
of State Lands and others 1992). Although most 
of the public lands have not been inventoried 
using the ROS system, the opportunities on 
public lands tend to fall toward the more 
primitive end of the spectrum (including 
primitive, semiprimitive nonmotorized, 
semiprimitive motorized, and roaded natural). 

The effects of mining on recreation tend to 
be localized and depend on a variety of factors, 
including the size and type of mine, the mine's 
setting, the recreation activities occurring in the 
area, the experience derived from these 
activities, and opportunities for similar 
activities in other nearby areas. The following 
are examples of the types of effects that 
locatable mineral activities could have on 
recreation: 



• Loss of recreational resources that might lead 
to displacement of the activity to alternative 
areas or loss of the ability to engage in the 
activity. 

• Modification of recreation settings leading to 
changes in recreation experiences due to 
project-related activities or the presence of 
project-related facilities. 

• Reduced feelings of solitude and remoteness 
due to the introduction of visual, sound, or 
other sensory effects from project-related 
activities that could conflict with recreation 
use. 

• Changed access to the area, which could open 
the area to some uses and close it to others. 
For example, mine developments can reduce 
opportunities for nonmotorized recreation 
while increasing opportunities for motorized 
recreation. 

• More local recreation by the local population 
that mine employment has increased. 

• Potential effects to the regional ecosystem's 
health that could decrease opportunities to 
use these resources for recreation (BLM and 
USFS 1997). 

Effects of mining on recreation can vary a 
great deal. The following examples outline 
potential effects to recreation from different 
types of mines under the existing regulations. 
More than 125,000 acres of public lands (of the 
study area's 262 million acres of public lands) 
are estimated to be currently disturbed by 
locatable minerals mining. 

Impacts have the potential to be most 
severe when a large open pit mine is located in 
an area of high-quality, irreplaceable recreation. 
An example potentially severe impacts may be 
seen in the proposed New World Mine, which 
would have been located northeast of 
Yellowstone National Park and could have 
affected the prime recreation experiences in and 
near the park (BLM and US FS 1997). This 
mine will not be developed (this project was not 
on BLM- managed lands). But had the mine 
been developed, effects could have included the 
following: 



239 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Changes to the recreation setting, including 
eliminating recreation at some sites and 
changing other settings by direct visibility of 
mining, which would eliminate feelings of 
remoteness and isolation. 

• Changes in access, including new roads, 
increased traffic management, increased 
congestion, and blocked traffic. 

• Changes in the sensory experience of 
backcountry users and others who are seeking 
a natural experience, including more noise, 
perception of increased congestion and 
crowding from mining-related traffic, and 
artificial night lighting. 

• Effects to hunting and fishing where mining 
might alter wildlife patterns or fishing 
opportunities. 

The following examples outline potential 
effects to recreation from a large open pit mine, 
a placer mine, and a bentonite strip mine under 
the existing regulations. These examples 
represent the types of impacts from mining on 
BLM lands. 

The Bootstrap Project is an open pit mine 
in the Carlin Trend area near Elko, Nevada 
(BLM 1996c; Treiman 1998). Lands in the 
region provide diverse recreational activities, 
including fishing, sightseeing, hunting, cross- 
country skiing, white water rafting, 
photography, rock collecting, and off-road 
vehicle use. The Bootstrap Project is increasing 
the amount of land disturbed by mining and has 
resulted in less land for recreation. In addition, 
because much of the area next to the mine is 
being used for exploration, public access there 
has been restricted for safety and security 
reasons. 

The Bootstrap Project area, however, is not 
intensively used for recreation and does not 
offer unique recreational opportunities. The 
region contains large areas of similar land open 
to the public for dispersed recreation. It is 
assumed that people can go elsewhere for a 
similar recreation experience outside the project 
area. 

Recreation potential unrelated to mining is 
also changing in the region. Many land owners 
who allowed unrestricted access in the past 



have reacted to increased use and abuse by 
locking gates on their private lands, thereby 
restricting access to public lands. Some of the 
increased use may be the result of users 
displaced from areas affected by mineral 
exploration and mining. These losses could 
make it more difficult to replace the recreation 
activities lost to mining. 

The Birch Creek Placer Mining Final 
Cumulative EIS (BLM 1988a, McClain 1998) 
discusses the potential impacts to recreation 
from placer mining in the Birch Creek 
watershed about 70 miles northeast of 
Fairbanks, Alaska. Birch Creek, a national wild 
river, is managed as a part of the Steese 
National Conservation Area. The national wild 
river offers outstanding recreational 
opportunities for floafboating for the 
experienced canoeist and is one of the few 
clearwater rivers in the state with road access at 
two points on an otherwise undisturbed river. In 
addition to floatboating, visitors to the area fish, 
hunt, study nature, observe wildlife, wilderness 
camp, and hike. 

Placer mining has affected recreation in this 
area in a variety of ways. New mining roads 
have allowed access to new areas for off-road 
vehicle (ORV) use, with some trespass 
occurring in areas closed to ORVs. Boating and 
hunting have increased substantially in the past 
15 years due mainly to better access. This 
increased use has reduced the quality of the 
primitive recreation experience. Degraded water 
from holding pond breeches and mining claims 
in the headwaters of Birch Creek during high 
water events have degraded the recreational 
experience of float boaters downstream. The 
water quality during regular and low flows has 
steadily improved over the past few years, but 
some mining practices still result in periods of 
degraded water in medium to low water flows. 

The Cody Resource Management Plan/EIS 
(BLM 1988c; Bye-Jech 1998) addressed the 
effects of bentonite strip mining on recreation 
in northwest Wyoming. Before mining, the 
areas with potential for bentonite development 
offered limited recreation, including ORV use 
and some hunting. Bentonite mining has opened 
some areas that were previously inaccessible, 



240 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



decreasing opportunities for nonmotorized 
activities and increasing opportunities for 
motorized activities, including ORV use. These 
newly accessible areas have replaced hunting or 
ORV opportunities that were lost or reduced 
through mining. 

Recreational Mining 

Recreational mining includes a variety of 
activities such as gold panning, using backpack 
suction dredges and sluice boxes, rock 
collecting, and other nonmechanized activities. 
Recreational mining occurs to some degree in 
most of the western states but is difficult to 
define because it is based on the motivation of 
the participant rather than a specific activity. 
Recreational mining takes many different 
forms, including with a group or alone, with or 
without a mining claim or in BLM-designated 
areas, and as an occasional activity or a much 
more frequent one. Because BLM has 
considered much recreational mining casual use 
and no contact with BLM was required, the 
number of people engaging in recreational 
mining on public lands is not known. 

Currently this activity is handled in 
different ways in BLM field offices. In some 
areas a recreation permit (not a 3809 
authorization) is required to use an area that 
BLM has specifically developed for recreational 
use. An example is in northern California where 
people can rent a site for dredging and sluicing 
for up to 30 days. For this area BLM issues 
about 90 permits annually. In the Medford Field 
Office area (Oregon) four areas are open to 
dredging, panning, and sluicing, and BLM 
requires a free recreation permit is required. 

In other areas mining clubs are active and 
own claims where their members can engage in 
mining for a fee. In the California Desert, 
mining clubs stake mining claims and stage 
mining events. These events might draw several 
hundred people, many of whom engage in dry 
wash placer mining. Mining club principals 
submit Plans of Operations. In these cases, each 
person might be engaging in casual use, but the 
cumulative effects of all the participants cause 
more than negligible surface disturbance. 



In other cases no permits are required even 
though many people might use an area. At 
Topaz Mountain, Utah, people come from 
around the world to collect topaz using hand 
tools. No permit is required, and the number of 
collectors is not known. 

Some tourists are also interested in visiting 
old mining camps or towns and seeing and 
participating in mining activities. Examples of 
such places include Nome, Alaska; Virginia 
City, Nevada; and Virginia City, Montana. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Under No Action mineral operations could 
continue to affect recreation user experiences as 
they have in the past. Examples of the types of 
impacts from current management are included 
in the discussion above. These effects would 
vary a great deal depending on the following: 

• Resource setting. 

• Current recreation use of the area. 

• Size and type of mine. 

• Opportunities for using alternative areas. 

Overall, the mix of recreational 
opportunities could change in localized areas. 
Opportunities at the primitive end of the 
spectrum could decrease, while opportunities 
for more developed recreation could increase. 
Areas that offer experiences at the more 
primitive end of the recreation opportunity 
spectrum would be more vulnerable because 
mining tends to dominate local settings, 
potentially eliminating their wildland character. 
Recreationists who prefer a primitive setting 
could be faced with a choice of diminished 
experience, finding an alternative area in which 
to recreate, or giving up the activity. Mine 
development, however, could increase the 
opportunities for some types of recreation by 
building roads into previously inaccessible 
areas. 



241 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Effects to wildlife and streams would 
continue under this Alternative and could 
reduce hunting and fishing opportunities. 

Opportunities for recreational mining would 
continue as they have in the past. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Effects under the State Management 
Alternative could be similar to those under No 
Action. But the potential for mining-related 
effects to resources-including water quality, 
wildlife, and more primitive recreation 
settings-would slightly increase, generally due 
to the increased level of mineral activity. 

Overall, the mix of recreational 
opportunities could change in localized areas. 
Opportunities at the primitive end of the 
spectrum could decrease, and opportunities for 
more developed recreation could increase. 
Areas that offer experiences at the more 
primitive end of the recreation opportunity 
spectrum (ROS) would be more vulnerable 
because mining tends to dominate local 
settings, potentially eliminating their wildland 
character. 

Mine development, however, could increase 
the opportunities for some types of recreation 
by building roads into previously inaccessible 
areas. Effects to wildlife and streams would 
continue under Alternative 2 and could reduce 
hunting and fishing opportunities. 

Opportunities for recreational mining could 
continue as they have in the past. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Effects under the Proposed Action would be 
similar to those for the No Action Alternative. 
Overall, the mix of recreational opportunities 
could change in localized areas. Opportunities 
at the primitive end of the spectrum could 
decrease, and opportunities for more developed 
recreation could increase. Areas that offer 
experiences at the more primitive end of the 
recreation opportunity spectrum would be more 
vulnerable to mining because mining tends to 
dominate local settings, potentially eliminating 
their wildland character. Mine development, 



however, could increase opportunities for some 
types of recreation by building roads into 
previously inaccessible areas. The magnitude of 
the above changes would be much less than 
under No Action. 

The potential for mining-related effects to 
resources, including water quality, wildlife, and 
more primitive recreation settings, would be 
much less than under No Action. This reduction 
would help maintain existing recreation uses 
related to fishing and hunting. In addition, 
visual resources would be much better protected 
than under No Action. 

Recreational mining that meets the casual 
use criteria (such as gold panning, metal 
detecting, rock collecting, hand and battery 
drywashers) would continue as before. A Notice 
or Plan, including bonding for reclamation, 
would be required if an activity were to exceed 
the casual use threshold. Suction dredging 
would be allowed without a Notice or Plan if a 
state permit is required and BLM and the state 
have signed an agreement. But none of these 
agreements are in place, and it is unclear how 
they would function because each would 
depend on local management decisions. 

If BLM and the state do not have an 
agreement, the operator must contact BLM to 
see if the action exceeds casual use. In those 
cases the operator would have to file a Notice 
or Plan with bonding, and that process might 
delay or preclude some activity. Casual use 
mining would decline by an estimated 10% to 
25%, with the decline in activity 
disproportionately falling on suction dredge 
users. Once participants become familiar with 
the new rules, however, the effect could 
decrease. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Effects on recreation under Alternative 4 
would be similar to those under No Action. 
Opportunities at the primitive end of the 
spectrum could decrease, while opportunities 
for more 



242 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



developed recreation could increase in 
localized areas. Areas that offer experiences at 
the more primitive end of the recreational 
opportunity spectrum would be more vulnerable 
to mining development because mining tends to 
dominate local settings, potentially eliminating 
their wildland character. Under Alternative 4, 
however, large open pit mines, which have the 
greatest potential to affect recreation, would 
decline more than any other type of activity. 
The magnitude of the changes in the mix of 
recreational opportunities would be much less 
than for No Action or the Proposed Action. 

To the degree that mining would decline 
(up to 65% from the current situation, 
depending on the type of mining), Alternative 4 
would allow more opportunities for recreation 
than would any of the other alternatives. But 
Alternative 4 would forgo recreation 
opportunities created by mine roads providing 
access into previously inaccessible areas. 

Under Alternative 4 all participants in 
mining activities would have to contact BLM to 
determine if their planned activity is casual use 
or if a Notice or Plan (including bonding for 
reclamation) is required. Requiring all 
participants to consult with BLM and some to 
file Notices or Plans might delay or preclude 
some recreational mining. Casual use mining 
would decline by an estimated 30% to 50%. 
The decline in activity would disproportionately 
fall on suction dredge users. Once participants 
become familiar with the new rules, however, 
the effect could decrease. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Effects under Alternative 5 would be 
similar to those under No Action. Overall, the 
mix of recreational opportunities could change 
in localized areas. Opportunities at the primitive 
end of the opportunity spectrum could decrease. 
Opportunities for more developed recreation 
could increase. Areas that offer experiences at 
the more primitive end of the recreation 
opportunity spectrum would be more vulnerable 
to mining because mining tends to dominate 
local settings, potentially eliminating their 



wildland character. Mine development, 
however, could increase opportunities for some 
types of recreation by building roads into 
previously inaccessible areas. The magnitude of 
the above changes would be slightly less that 
under No Action. 

The potential for mining-related effects to 
resources, including water quality, wildlife, and 
more primitive recreation settings, would be 
slightly less than under No Action. This 
reduction could help maintain existing 
recreation uses related to hunting and fishing. 

The definition of causal use would remain 
the same under this Alternative 5, so 
recreational mining that meets the criteria for 
casual use would continue as before. 

Visual Resources 

Affected Environment 

Public lands in the study area are renowned 
for their diverse scenic and visual resources. 
Generally good air quality and dramatic 
topography combine to create spectacular 
vistas. The popularity of scenic and 
backcountry byways and scenic overlooks 
illustrates the value and appreciation of scenic 
quality. Scenic values can also be tied to 
America's number one pastime of driving for 
pleasure. 

BLM has a basic stewardship responsibility 
to identify and protect visual values on public 
lands. These public lands have a variety of 
visual values, and these values warrant different 
levels of management. Because it is neither 
desirable nor practical to provide the same level 
of management for all visual resources, BLM 
must systematically identify and evaluate these 
values. 

This evaluation is based upon the apparent 
visual values of landscapes of similar character 
as shown on the map Physical Divisions of the 
United States by Nevil M. Fenneman and the 
U.S. Geological Survey (Fenneman 1946). 
Therefore, only landscapes of similar character 
are ranked against each other, thus eliminating 
the possibility of entire regions of the country 
being ranked as low-quality scenery when 



243 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



compared to other regions of high-scenic 
quality. 

The visual values are identified through the 
visual resource management (VRM) inventory 
and are considered with other resources in the 
resource management planning (RMP) process. 
All BLM lands within resource management 
planning areas are assigned a visual resource 
management (VRM) class. Class I is assigned 
to all special areas where a management 
decision has been made to maintain a natural 
landscape. Class I areas include designated 
wilderness, wild sections of wild and scenic 
rivers, and other congressionally and 
administratively designated areas where 
decisions have been made to preserve a natural 
landscape (i.e. wilderness study areas). 

Classes II, III, and IV are assigned by a 
process that considers scenic quality, viewer 
sensitivity to changes in the landscape, and 
distance zones (BLM 1986). Scenic quality, a 
measure of the visual appeal of a tract of land, 
is determined by using the seven key factors of 
landform, vegetation, water, color, adjacent 
scenery, scarcity (uniqueness), and cultural 
modifications. Sensitivity, a measure of public 
concern for changes to the scenic quality, 
considers the types of users, amount of use, 
public interest, and adjacent land uses. 

Distance zones are based on the premise 
that the closer a point in the landscape is to the 
viewer, the more the details are visible and the 
greater the visual impact from a surface- 
disturbing activity. Distance zones examine 
relative visibility from travel routes or 
observation points and consider whether 
something is in the foreground-middleground, 
background, or seldom seen. 

From the above information, BLM- 
managed areas covered by resource 
management plans (RMPs) are assigned a 
management class that represents the relative 
value of the visual resource and prescribes the 
level of acceptable change in the landscape. The 
VRM class objectives are described below. 

Class I Objective - No Visible Change: 
The objective of this class is to preserve the 
existing character of the landscape. This class 
allows natural ecological changes but does not 



preclude very limited management activity. The 
level of change to the characteristic landscape 
should be very low and must not attract 
attention. 

Class II Objective - Change Visible but 
Does Not Attract Attention: The objective of 
this class is to retain the existing character of 
the landscape. The level of change to the 
characteristic landscape should be low. 
Management activities may be seen but should 
not attract the attention of the casual observer. 
Any changes must repeat the basic elements of 
form, line, color, and texture found in the 
predominant natural features of the 
characteristic landscape. 

Class III Objective - Change Attracts 
Attention but Is Not Dominant: The objective 
of this class is to partially retain the existing 
character of the landscape. The level of change 
to the characteristic landscape should be 
moderate. Management activities may attract 
attention but should not dominate the view of 
the casual observer. Changes should repeat the 
basic elements in the predominant natural 
features of the characteristic landscape. 

Class IV Objective - Change Is Dominant 
but Mitigated: The objective of this class is to 
allow management activities that require major 
modification of the existing character of the 
landscape. The level of change to the 
characteristic landscape can be high. These 
management activities may dominate the view 
and be the major focus of viewer attention. But 
every attempt should be made to minimize the 
impact of these activities through careful 
location, minimal disturbance, and repeating the 
basic elements. 

Information Bulletin No. 98-135 (BLM 
1998b) recently articulated BLM policy toward 
visual resources. This policy does not represent 
a change from current policy but a renewed 
emphasis on the importance of the program. 
The information bulletin stated that BLM has a 
basic stewardship responsibility to manage 
visual resources on public lands. Local 
management discretion for decisions on VRM 
issues is guided by this basic stewardship 
responsibility and decisions in planning 
documents. It is BLM policy that visual design 



244 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



considerations be incorporated into all surface- 
disturbing projects on public lands, regardless 
of the size or potential visual impact of these 
projects. The VRM system should not be 
viewed as a means to preclude development, 
but rather as a design tool to help management 
minimize potential visual impacts (BLM 
1998b). 

BLM does not have information on the 
national distribution of its lands within the 
VRM classes. Conflict over scenic values are 
most likely to occur in areas of high mineral 
potential in mountains, river valleys, or other 
areas with high scenic values. The effects of 
mining on visual management objectives for an 
area depend on a variety of factors, including 
the size and type of mine, the basic visual 
elements of the landscape and the proposed 
project, and the ability to mitigate visual 
impacts. The following examples outline 
potential effects to scenic values under current 
conditions from two large open pit mines, a 
placer mine, and a bentonite strip mine. 

Impacts to scenic values have the potential 
to be most severe when a large open pit mine is 
in an area of high scenic quality. An example of 
severe impacts to scenic quality can be seen at 
the mining development at Zortman, Montana, 
in the Little Rocky Mountains (BLM and 
Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality 1996). 

The Little Rocky Mountains are an isolated 
area of domed mountains roughly 10 miles in 
diameter. The rounded crests rise nearly 3,000 
feet above the surrounding plains. The 
topographic relief, colors, and textures of the 
mountains and their vegetation contrast with the 
relatively homogeneous terrain, lines, forms, 
colors and textures of the adjacent plains. In an 
assessment of the scenic quality of the Little 
Rocky Mountains, completed in 1 979, the area 
was found to have Class A scenery and was 
given a Class II VRM rating (BLM and 
Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality 1996). 

Since 1979, disturbance at the Zortman 
Mine has resulted from mine pits, heap leach 
pads, waste rock storage areas, roads, topsoil 
stockpiles, processing areas, and other ancillary 
facilities. Mining has greatly changed 
landforms, creating sharp contrasts with the 



lines, forms, colors, and textures visible in the 
natural landscape. The scale of the disturbance 
dominates the viewer's attention. 

These contrasts are visible from many of 
the surrounding peaks and buttes. Recreationists 
use these peaks and buttes for hiking, 
picnicking, and wildlife viewing. American 
Indians use them for cultural purposes. The 
current disturbance at the Zortman Mine is 
incompatible with the objectives for VRM 
Class II landscapes. Topography changes have 
caused an irretrievable loss of the area's 
characteristic landscape. 

The Bootstrap Project is an open pit mine 
in the Carlin Trend near Elko, Nevada (BLM 
1996c; Treiman 1998). The landscape, which is 
characterized by broad open vistas framed by 
scattered hills and mountain ranges, has been 
given a Class IV designation. 

The main impact of the mine is large-scale 
modification of landforms. Angular, blocky 
forms and horizontal lines have created 
moderate contrasts with the natural rounded, 
rolling hills and ridges of the characteristic 
landscape. Land clearing and construction of 
waste rock storage and leach facilities have 
exposed soil and rock in a variety of colors. The 
visual impacts of new structures are small when 
compared to the visually dominant waste rock 
disposal areas and mine pits. 

Mitigation measures developed to reduce 
visual contrasts include locating facilities in less 
visible areas, minimizing disturbance, and 
repeating the basic elements of form, line, 
color, and texture. Following successful 
reclamation, the most noticeable residual effect 
of the proposed action would be the mine pits. 

The Birch Creek Placer Mining Final 
Cumulative EIS (BLM 1988a; McClain 1998) 
discusses the potential visual effects from 
placer mining in the Birch Creek watershed 
about 70 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. 
Birch Creek, a national wild river, is managed 
as part of the Steese National Conservation 
Area. The landforms are defined mainly by the 
Birch Creek drainage. The characteristic 
landforms consist of lower, rounded mountains 
and hills with bedrock intrusions that have been 
shaped and dissected by flowing water. The 



245 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



major tributaries of Birch Creek flow through 
deep, narrow valleys. 

The Birch Creek National Wild River has 
been rated as VRM Class I. But past and 
present activities-such as placer mining, road 
construction, and other similar activities that 
have altered the characteristic landscape-are 
incompatible with Class I objectives. Mining 
disturbance is reclaimed, but the surface is 
revegetated by natural processes. Meanwhile, 
the cumulative impacts continue to increase. 

The Cody Resource Management Plan/EIS 
(BLM 1988c; Bye-Jech 1998) addresses the 
effects of bentonite strip mining on visual 
resources. Before mining, the areas with 
potential for bentonite development received 
VRM Class III or IV ratings. Visual quality has 
declined in specific areas due to bentonite 
mining but still meets VRM class objectives. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Management Common to All 
Alternatives 

All exploration and mining would operate 
under the BLM policy that visual design 
considerations be incorporated into all surface- 
disturbing projects on public lands, regardless 
of the size or potential visual impact of these 
projects (BLM 1998b). 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Effects to scenic values under No Action 
would be similar to those described above. 
Project- specific impacts would depend upon 
the size and type of the project, the area's 
topography, the ability to mitigate effects, and 
other factors. Some projects still might not meet 
VRM objectives, especially large open pit 
mines in areas designated Class I or II. Mining 
in Class I or II areas could contrast in texture, 
color, form, and line with the natural landscape. 
This mining could cause a permanent loss of 
scenic values and scenic integrity and could 
negatively affect activities such as tourism and 
recreation that depend, at least in part, on scenic 
values. Mining development in areas designated 



Class III or IV would be more likely to meet 
objectives because more modification of the 
landscape is allowed. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Under State Management adverse effects to 
the visual environment could be greater than 
under No Action. Reclamation efforts would be 
similar, but less emphasis would be placed on 
scenic quality. Additionally, Alternative 2 would 
slightly increase mining, increasing the 
potential for disturbance to visual resources. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Under the Proposed Action project- specific 
impacts would depend upon the size and type of 
the project, the area's topography, the VRM 
goals, and the ability to mitigate effects. 
Overall, the effects to scenic quality would be 
much less than under No Action because of the 
revised definition of "unnecessary or undue 
degradation," stricter reclamation standards, and 
less mining overall. Unnecessary or undue 
degradation would include protecting cultural 
and environmental resources from harm that 
could not be effectively mitigated. These 
resources could include viewsheds of regional 
or national importance and viewsheds related to 
cultural areas. Mining development in all 
classes would be likely to meet objectives. 

Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Project-specific impacts would depend 
upon the size and type of the project, the area's 
topography, VRM goals, and the ability to 
mitigate effects. Overall, the effects to scenic 
quality would be much less than under No 
Action because of much stricter reclamation 
standards, including mandatory pit backfilling, 
better road design, and enhanced revegetation 
standards. Fewer operations would fall under 
casual use, and much less mining would occur, 
especially open pit mines, which tend to have 
the greatest effect on visual resources. Projects 
would be more likely to meet VRM objectives 
because of the lessened effects to the visual 
environment discussed above and the 



246 



Chapter J - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



requirements for projects to conform to BLM 
land use plans. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Effects to scenic values would be similar to 
those under No Action. Project- specific impacts 
would depend upon the size and type of the 
project, the area's topography, the ability to 
mitigate effects, and other factors. Some 
projects still might not meet VRM objectives, 
especially large open pit mines in areas 
designated Class I or II. 

Mining in Class I or II areas could contrast 
in texture, color, form, and line with the natural 
landscape. This mining could cause a 
permanent loss of scenic values and scenic 
integrity and could negatively affect activities 
such as tourism and recreation that depend, at 
least in part, on scenic values. Mining 
development in areas designated Class III or IV 
would be more likely to meet objectives 
because these classes allow more modification 
of the landscape. The magnitude of the effects 
would be slightly less than for No Action. 

Cave Resources 

Affected Environment 

Caves can be found in any type of rock as a 
result of a variety of natural forces. Karst 
features, depressions, sinkholes, caves, or 
underground drainages are usually found in 
sedimentary rocks, notably limestone, dolomite, 
or gypsum. Caves in igneous rock include flow 
features such as tubes, lava blisters, and fissures 
created during eruptions. Overhang and cliff 
caves may be found in any type of rock. They 
are usually erosional remnants that can vary in 
depth and length from a few feet to several 
hundred feet. 

Cave resources are defined in 43 CFR 37.4 
as follows: 

"...any naturally occurring void, cavity, 
recess, or system of interconnected 
passages beneath the surface of the earth 



or within a cliff or ledge, including any 
cave resource therein, and which is large 
enough to permit a person to enter, whether 
the entrance is excavated or naturally 
formed. Such terms shall include any 
natural pit, sinkhole, or other feature. " 

This definition excludes abandoned mine 
tunnels or other human-made features. 

The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act 
of 1988 (FCRPA) provides for the designation 
of significance based upon the following 
criteria: biota, cultural, 
geological/mineralogical/paleontological, 
hydrological, recreational, and educational or 
scientific values. Upon discovery, a cave is 
evaluated to determine its significance. If a 
cave is determined to be significant, its entire 
extent, including passages not mapped or 
discovered at the time of determination, is 
deemed significant. 

To date, 510 caves on federal lands have 
been designated as significant, and 25 limestone 
caves have been withdrawn from mining claim 
location. At least 30 caves have been affected 
by mining operations of some kind. At least 
four of these were significantly affected to the 
extent that they no longer exist. 

Where they exist, state laws protecting cave 
resources are usually limited to resources on 
state lands or parks or other resources 
administered by the state. Few states have laws 
that protect caves regardless of ownership. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Impacts Common to All 
Alternatives 

Impacts to cave resources are actions that 
would impair or destroy the caves or any of the 
characteristics that make them significant. 
These impacts could directly result from mining 
if a mine were on or next to a significant cave. 
Impacts, particularly to caves that contain 
cultural or paleontological material, are not as 
likely to occur under Plan-level activity as they 
are under Notice-level activity because Plans of 



247 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Operations require environmental review 
procedures that protect cave resources. In caves 
near mineral operations, fragile cave formations 
can be disturbed or dislodged by seismic 
activity. These impacts are often difficult to 
predict. 

Studies on the effect of mining on cave 
resources are limited, but potential effects can 
be listed. Exploration, particularly drilling, has 
the potential to breach the fragile cave 
environment. Disrupting the air or water 
movement or temperature in a cave interferes 
with cave growth and development, speleothem 
growth, and the maintenance of a healthy 
ecosystem for cave wildlife. 

Any microflora or fauna within the caves 
have evolved in response to the delicate balance 
between water and air. Any surface- or soil- 
disturbing activities that either increase or 
decrease the amount of air or water within a 
cave would harm the cave system. Changing 
the water quality or quantity by aquifer 
disruption or introducing water into an aquifer 
could also affect the cave environment. 
Increased soil erosion and siltation could 
prevent water infiltration into cave systems by 
normal routes and adversely alter speleothem 
growth. Additionally, excessive siltation and 
sediment loads in the underground streams and 
pools would have highly adverse impacts on the 
aquatic wildlife. 

The desirability of disturbed caves for 
recreational use could decrease, and caves 
could present greater risks to entrants, 
depending on the degree to which air and water 
movements have been altered and the amount 
of blasting and other structural modifications 
created by mining. 

Other impacts to caves might result from 
increased visitation and vandalism as a result of 
improved access to new mines being developed 
in previously remote areas. These indirect 
impacts could range a considerable distance 
from a new mine and include inadvertent or 
intentional damage from visitors or collectors as 
well as disturbance of bat colonies and other 
wildlife. 



Alternative 1: No Action 

Direct impacts are expected to continue to 
decrease under the No Action Alternative, 
mainly because of die ongoing implementation 
of the Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988, 
an increased awareness of cave resources, and 
mineral withdrawal of areas with significant 
caves. Exploration and Notice-level mining 
would likely continue to damage cave sites. 
Indirect impacts from existing and new mines 
would continue at the same rate or slightly less, 
depending on the number of new mines, the 
expansion of existing mines, and the success of 
withdrawals. These impacts would result from 
increased human activity in an area. As such 
they are not easily predictable. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

State laws protecting cave resources vary. 
Six western states have statutes that give some 
protection to cave resources but none to the 
same extent as the Federal Cave Resources 
Protection Act. In those states impacts to caves 
might increase slightly. In the western states 
without cave regulatory protection, cave 
resources are likely to experience an increase in 
adverse effects. States lacking an equivalent to 
the National Environmental Policy Act are not 
likely to consider wildlife, cultural, or 
paleontological values in caves. Impacts to 
caves containing these resources would 
increase. Indirect impacts to existing and new 
mines would continue. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Specific language directed at cave resources 
in the proposed regulations and the defining of 
unnecessary or undue degradation to include 
scientific values would increase the 
consideration of caves in the evaluation of both 
Notice- and Plan-level operations. This 
consideration might prevent both direct and 
indirect impacts. Specifically, impacts from 
Notice-level mining would likely be reduced 
because of new definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 



248 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Alternative 4i Maximum 
Protection 

Under Maximum Protection, all mineral 
activity that could cause disturbance exceeding 
casual use would require a Plan of Operations 
and would be subject to a thorough review by 
BLM. The elimination of Notices would reduce 
impacts to all cave resources. Also, greater 
emphasis upon land use planning documents 
would further protect caves. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Impacts to Cave resources under this 
Alternative would result from incidental use 
and exploration. All other activities would 
require a Plan of Operations which would 
provide for environmental review and greater 
protection of cave resources. 

Paleontological 
Resources 

Affected Environment 

Paleontological resources are the remains of 
plants and animals preserved in soils and 
sedimentary rocks. They are important for 
understanding past environments, 
environmental change, and the evolution of life. 
Paleontological resources can be found in any 
sedimentary formation or soil deposition 
context. The highest potential exists in badlands 
shale, sandstone, limestone outcrops, adjacent 
fault scarps, and eroded lands. 

The Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act directs agencies to manage paleontological 
resources to preserve them for scientific and 
public uses. Paleontological resources have not 
been systematically inventoried on most BLM- 
administered lands. 

BLM has found 5 million acres of sensitive 
fossil-bearing geological deposits on western 
federal land. The fossils range in age from the 



Precambrian (more than 500 million years ago) 
to the recent (the last 10,000 years) and include 
examples of all extinct and living phyla. 
Paleontological remains include mammoths 
from the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, to 
the microorganisms that constitute the earliest 
evidence of life some 2.8 billion years ago. 
Paleontological remains discovered on federal 
land include dinosaur remains in Alaska, 
Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, California, 
and Montana; fossil fish deposits in the Green 
River Formation of Wyoming; insect and plant 
fossils in Nevada, large petrified trees in 
Arizona and Nevada, and recent-age fossils in 
Alaskan deposits. 

Mineral activities can benefit 
paleontological research when significant 
resources are discovered, reported, and 
recovered as a result of activities ranging from 
exploration to extraction. The removal of 
overburden during mining can expose fossil- 
bearing formations for inspection and possible 
discovery. But surface-disturbing activities can 
harm paleontological resources if deposits are 
not recognized or reported and significant fossil 
information is displaced or lost. 

Since 1981 paleontological resources have 
been found in no more than 3% of Notice-level 
operations, mainly in Utah, Montana, and 
Wyoming. In Alaska the number is higher; 26% 
of Notice-level operations have found 
paleontological remains because of the higher 
proportion of placer mining there. BLM has 
issued no notices of noncompliance for damage 
to paleontological resources. 

Paleontological resources have been found 
during Plan-level activity in most states. New 
Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Alaska, 
and Montana have had paleontological 
resources discovered from 6% to 10% of the 
time during mining. In the other states 
paleontological resources have been found in 
1% or 2% of Plan-level operations. In Plan- 
level operations mitigation measures are used to 
reduce the impact and prevent the loss of 
information. 



249 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Environmental 
Consequences 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Impacts to paleontological resources from 
Notice-level activity would continue at the 
present rate of 26% of all Notices submitted in 
Alaska, to about 3% of all Notices submitted in 
the other states. Plan-level operations would 
continue to have both adverse and beneficial 
impacts at the present rate. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Under Alternative 2, operators might not 
recognize or report paleontological resources. 
Few states have laws protecting paleontological 
resources, and most protection is restricted to 
state land. Depending on the state program, 
much paleontological resource and associated 
site information could be lost. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Increased protection or preservation of 
paleontological resources would result from 
requiring Plans of Operations for private 
surface overlying federal minerals. The 
Proposed Action would slightly reduce impacts 
to paleontological resources from both Notice- 
and Plan-level activities because sensitive lands 
would be included in the category of 
disturbances requiring Plans of Operations. 

Language directed at paleontological 
resources in the proposed regulations and the 
defining of "unnecessary or undue degradation" 
to include scientific values, would increase 
BLM's consideration of paleontological 
resources in evaluating mineral activity. This 
consideration might prevent both direct and 
indirect impacts. Specifically, impacts from 
Notice-level mining would likely decline 
because of new definition of unnecessary or 
undue degradation. 



Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

The Maximum Protection Alternative 
would reduce the potential for impacts to 
paleontological resources. Paleontological 
resources on private surface overlying federal 
minerals would also be inventoried and 
recovered. Paleontological information would 
no longer be lost from Notice-level activity 
because all mining and exploration would 
require Plans of Operations. 

Increased time frames for Plan review 
would allow more extensive examination of 
proposed disturbance areas to determine either 
the existence of fossils or the potential for the 
area to produce significant fossils. The 
unlimited time period for evaluating and 
recovering fossils discovered during operations 
would allow for complete data recovery in areas 
containing complicated fossil deposits. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Most impacts to paleaontological resources 
occur from mining and all mining activities 
under Alternative 5 would now require a Plans 
of Operations which would lead to better 
protection paleontological resources then 
Alternative 1. 

Cultural Resources 

Affected Environment 

Cultural resources are the fragile and 
nonrenewable remains of human activity. They 
are found in sites, districts, buildings, and 
artifacts that are important in past and present 
human events. Cultural resources are arbitrarily 
divided into historic and prehistoric cultural 
properties and traditional lifeway values, 
although they are part of a continuum of human 
use and occupation of the land. 



250 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



A traditional lifeway value is important for 
maintaining a traditional system of religious 
belief, cultural practice, or social interaction for 
a contemporary ethnic or cultural group or 
community. Shared traditional lifeway values 
are abstract, nonmaterial, ascribed ideas that 
cannot be discovered except through 
discussions with members of the particular 
group. Lifeway values may or may not be 
closely related to narrowly defined locations. 



areas, particularly where there were significant 
ecological changes over short distances. 
Consequently, site types, sizes, and densities are 
extremely variable. American Indians typically 
consider prehistoric resources to be ancestral 
sites. 

Prehistoric cultural resources have been 
organized into early, middle, and late periods, 
with the early period commonly called Paleo- 
Indian (15,000 to 8,000 years ago), the middle 



Table 3-28. Designated Nationally Significan Cultural Resource Areas 


Designation 


Number 


Estimated Acreage 


National Historic Trails 


8 


1,271,880 
(3,590 miles) 


National Register Properties Listed 


3,610 Contributing Properties * 
255 Listings 


NA 


National Historic Landmarks 


22 


117,167 


Areas of Critical Environmental Concern 


123 


1 ,428,960 


* Buildings, sites, structures, or objects adding to the historic significance of a property. 



As of 1999, about 5.7% of the BLM- 
administered lands had undergone cultural 
resource inventories. As a result, 227,993 sites 
have been recorded with 19,297 properties 
found to be eligible for listing on the National 
Register of Historic Places. In addition, certain 
areas have been designated at least in part 
because of their cultural resource content. Table 
3-28 shows the numbers of nationally 
significant designated cultural resource areas. 

Prehistoric Resources 

Prehistoric properties in the United States 
extend back to the earliest human migrations to 
the Western Hemisphere, some 15,000 years 
ago. Prehistoric properties range from isolated 
artifacts, through small-scale habitation sites, to 
complex agricultural villages and densely 
populated pueblos. Prehistoric human 
occupations were rarely uniform over large 



period Archaic (8,000 to 2,000 years ago), and 
the final period Late Prehistoric (2,000 to 200 
years ago). 

Cultural resources from the Paleo-Indian 
period are found in high-elevation coniferous 
and deciduous forests and also lower elevation 
plains grasslands and in parts of the desert 
Southwest, mainly near water sources and in 
alluvial and colluvial soil deposits. People 
during this period often hunted megafauna, such 
as mammoth and giant bison, which are now 
extinct. 

Prehistoric cultural resources from the 
Archaic period reflect a shift from an 
exploitation of megafauna to an emphasis on 
hunting and collecting a variety of resources, 
such as fish, large and small game, and edible 
plants and nuts. Hunting sites, plant gathering 
sites, and temporary camps are likely scattered 
in most western ecosystems. 

Beginning about 2,000 years ago the 
Archaic period phased into the Late Prehistoric 



251 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



period with the introduction of agriculture, 
ceramics, the bow and arrow, and sedentary 
lifeways as major adaptive elements. In general, 
site types and patterns were the same as during 
Archaic times except where lifeways shifted to 
an agricultural base. 

The Prehistoric era began blending into the 
Historic era in 1492, when Europeans started 
significant migrations to the Americas. The 
Historic era began in the Southwest and 
California in the 1500s with the Spanish 
entrada. In the Pacific Northwest and the Great 
Basin significant migration effects did not begin 
before the middle of the 1800s. In the Rocky 
Mountains and Plains the Historic era did not 
begin until the exploitation of the region by the 
fur trade in the late 1700s and early 1800s. 

Historic Resources 

Cultural properties of the Historic era 
continue to include indigenous materials, but 
the resources are now dominated by artifacts, 
sites, and landscapes of early Euro-American 
exploration, the fur trade, mining, logging, 
ranching, farming, transportation, 
manufacturing, and urban development. 

Beginning about 1900 the Historic era 
blends into modern times although certain 
elements of traditional and historic cultures and 
lifeways are sometimes preserved. For example, 
American Indians continue traditional religious 
beliefs and practices and in many cases have 
maintained tribal uses of traditional plant 
gathering and hunting. Also, other native 
Americans retain values, sometimes as an 
occupation, in the land and its use and 
accessibility. These "Old West" attitudes are 
deeply held by the families who have owned 
land and lived for generations in the same area. 

Traditional Cultural Resources 

Traditional cultural properties and 
traditional lifeway values include areas for 
gathering plants, animals, or minerals that are 
important to American Indians and other 
cultural groups. They also include areas and 
landscapes that embody religious symbolism or 



are required for ritual practices. Rural historic 
landscapes that exemplify a historic lifeway, 
such as ranching or mining, may be important. 
Traditional cultural properties may also have 
historical significance from events such as 
battles or other local, regional, or national 
historic events. 

Historic Impacts to Cultural 
Resources 

There are three main sources of impacts to 
cultural resources. Vandalism to sites includes 
unauthorized collection, excavation, or defacing 
and is the most common source of loss of 
values. Impacts from vandalism increase as 
population increases and as access to an area 
improves. It is difficult to measure this type of 
impact. But where population increases, such as 
at mine openings, the amount of vandalism 
generally increases. 

Loss of site information, material culture, or 
in situ information from unauthorized or 
inadvertent activity, such as an off-road vehicle 
use and sometimes casual use and Notice-level 
activity, is the second type of impact. Again, 
measuring this type of impact is difficult, and 
impacts sometimes go unnoticed for a long 
time. 

Finally, previously unknown cultural 
resources, such as buried material with no 
surface indication, can be disturbed. Often a 
large portion of these types of resources can be 
destroyed before being noticed. If enough of 
this type of resource remains upon discovery by 
the operator, the recovery of the information 
would be a net benefit to cultural resources. 

Before authorizing surface disturbance, 
BLM must determine what cultural resources 
are eligible for inclusion on the National 
Register of Historic Places and consider the 
effects of the proposed undertaking through the 
consultation process in Section 106 of the 
National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 
1966. This process is implemented according to 
36 CFR 800. In many states, procedures for 
adapting the process to local needs have been 
developed through programmatic agreements 



252 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



among BLM, the state historic preservation 
officer, and the Advisory Council on Historic 
Preservation. 

Section 106 of NHPA does not prohibit 
disturbing cultural resources. In fact, BLM may 
permit activities that result in adverse effects if 
mitigation cannot preserve all site information. 
Often this is the loss contextual information 
about the site, its existence within a particular 
ecological zone, or the inability to apply 
evolving techniques of data recovery. In 
addition, mitigation is required only if 
disturbance would affect a resource's attributes 
that make it eligible for the National Register. 
The one who would be mitigating the damage 
might ignore the attributes not considered 
significant to the site's eligibility. 

In recent years, with an awareness and 
appreciation of cultural resources, properties 
and traditional lifeway values, the inventory, 
protection, stabilization, and enhancement of 
cultural resources have become an integral part 
of BLM procedures. While recovery of cultural 
resource information results in a loss of some in 
situ information, this loss of information is 
slight under most mitigation. 

Casual use and Notice-level activity are not 
federal actions or undertakings and therefore do 
not require consultation under the National 
Historic Protection Act. But to meet the broad 
management responsibilities for cultural 
resources under the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act, Archeological Resources 
Protection Act, National Environmental Policy 
Act, and National Historic Preservation Act, 
cultural resource specialists routinely review 
Notices. This involvement ranges from 50% to 
100% of cases. In less than half of the cases, 
trained nonspecialists have been used to 
recognize resources for evaluation by 
specialists. 

Notice-level actions disturb cultural 
resources, but nationwide only about 3%, on the 
average, of these actions either require 
mitigation or actually damage cultural 
resources. Of these 3%, onlyl % were listed on 



the National Register. BLM has issued eight 
notices of noncompliance since 1981 for 
damage to cultural resource sites. Only two of 
these sites were on the National Register. 

The approval of Plan-level activities 
requires compliance with the National Historic 
Preservation Act. This process includes review 
by BLM cultural resource specialists. Generally, 
on-the-ground inventories are required for all 
potentially affected areas. Resources discovered 
during inventories are evaluated to determine 
their eligibility for inclusion on the National 
Register and how they would be affected by the 
Proposed Action. 

Since 1981, up to 30% of the Plans of 
Operations submitted have involved prehistoric 
resources, and up to 50% have involved historic 
resources. The notable exception is in Alaska, 
where 92% of Plans of Operations submitted 
since 1981 have involved historic resources. 
BLM evaluated all of these sites according to 
existing regulations and found only 10% or 
fewer eligible for the National Register. Since 
1981 BLM has issued only one notice of 
noncompliance for damage to cultural 
resources. 

The benefit of mineral activity has been the 
addition of information to prehistory and history 
from the inventory and evaluation of sites in 
disturbance areas. The major contributions have 
been from processing Plans of Operations and, 
to a lesser extent, Notice reviews. If recognized 
in time, resources discovered during operations 
can contribute valuable information on cultural 
resources. 

State laws protecting cultural resources 
vary. Burial laws are common to most states 
and are usually not specific to prehistoric or 
historic remains. These laws commonly require 
notifying the local coroner should a burial or 
human remains be discovered. State laws 
protecting prehistoric or historic sites are 
normally effective only on state-owned lands. In 
some cases these laws extend to private land 
where state or federal funds are involved. 



253 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Environmental 
Consequences 

Recent Regulatory Changes 
Affecting Impacts under 
Alternatives 1, 3, 4, and 5 

Since the completion of the draft EIS, 
changes in the 36 CFR 800 regulations now 
require consultation with tribal historic 
preservation officers. When Indian tribes and 
Native Hawaiian organizations attach religious 
and cultural significance to historic properties 
on and off tribal lands, consultation is required 
under section 101(d)(6)(B) of the National 
Historic Preservation Act. This consultation will 
reduce impacts to traditional cultural places and 
properties that have religious or cultural 
significance. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Impacts to cultural resources would 
continue under Notice-level activity. The 
number of sites affected is expected to stay at 
the same level, about 3% of all cases. The 
recovery of site material during mine operations 
would benefit cultural resources. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Mineral activity could increase by an 
estimated 5% under the State Management 
Alternative. State programs by themselves 
would generally not mitigate impacts to cultural 
resources or recover data from disturbed sites. 
Both the increased potential for disturbance and 
the lack of data recovery would significantly 
harm cultural resources. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

For several reasons the Proposed Action 
would reduce impacts to prehistoric, historic, 
and traditional cultural resources for both 
Notice- and Plan-level activities. First, operators 
would submit fewer Notices and proportionally 
more Plans due to the expansion of special 
status areas. Overall, a more detailed cultural 



resource review would improve opportunities 
for recognizing and mitigating development and 
would better protect cultural resources. 

Second, the amount of time allowed for 
recovering data from cultural resources 
discovered during operations would increase to 
30 calendar days. This increased time would 
allow better or at least more complete recovery 
of data from cultural resource discoveries. 

Third, the addition of split-estate lands with 
private surface ownership over federal minerals 
would occasionally allow data recovery and 
protection of cultural resources on these other 
lands. 

Finally, the language used in the expanded 
definition of "undue or unnecessary 
degradation" standard to include "substantial 
irreparable harm to significant scientific, 
cultural, or environmental resource values of 
the public lands that cannot be effectively 
mitigated" implies that consultation through the 
National Historic Preservation Act (36 CFR 
800.6(a)) will be completed where the standard 
is to be met. Therefore, both Notice- and Plan- 
level activities could involve consultation with 
state historic preservation officers and tribal 
historic preservation officers, reducing impacts 
to these resources. 

Mineral activity under the Proposed Action 
is expected to decrease slightly from current 
levels. Although this decrease means fewer 
opportunities for cultural resource inventory and 
data collection from mining sites, it also means 
less potential to harm cultural resources. These 
two effects would be about equal. A decrease in 
mineral activity would benefit cultural resources 
on traditional cultural properties, national 
historic trails, or other areas where mining 
disrupts the setting of a historic property. 

Alternative 4: Maximum Protection 

For several reasons Alternative 4 would 
give the most protection to cultural resources of 
all alternatives. First, Notices would be 
eliminated. All previous Notice-level activity 
would have to be conducted under Plans of 
Operations, resulting in more detailed cultural 



254 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



resource reviews with improved opportunities 
for recognizing and mitigating development. 
Cultural resources would be better protected. 

Second, the amount of time allowed for the 
recovery of data from cultural resources 
discovered during operations would increase 
from 10 working days to an unlimited time 
period. This time frame would give sites 
discovered during mining a sufficiently detailed 
recovery strategy commensurate with their 
significance, resulting in improved or at least 
more complete recovery of data from cultural 
resource discoveries. 

Third, the addition of split-estate lands with 
privately owned surface over federal minerals, 
and lands with BLM-managed surfaces only 
would allow for data recovery and protection of 
cultural resources on other lands. 

Also, the amount of mineral activity is 
expected to decrease from current levels. This 
decrease means a decrease in opportunities for 
cultural resource inventory and data collection 
for mineral projects. But this decrease also 
means less potential to harm cultural resources. 
Since all activity potentially affecting cultural 
resources could be controlled under Plans of 
Operations, the decrease in data collection 
opportunities from sites would outweigh any 
benefit of decreased mineral activity. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Alternative 5 would eliminate impacts from 
Notice-level mineral activities other than from 
exploration. 

American Indian 
Resource Concerns 

Affected Environment 

American Indians sometimes use BLM- 
managed public lands for a variety of traditional 
purposes. They may use the lands to gather 
native plants, animals, and minerals for use in 
religious ceremonies, rites of passage, folk 
medicine, subsistence, crafts, and other 
traditions. Contemporary use areas often 



include traditional plant and mineral collection 
locales, vision quest sites, sun dance grounds, 
shrines, and traditional trails. Lands with a 
history of traditional use or having traditional 
lifeway values may be eligible for listing on the 
National Register of Historic Places as a 
traditional cultural property (TCP). 

Because of their combination of geology 
with topography, lands used by American 
Indians for traditional cultural practices or 
having traditional cultural resources often 
contain valuable mineral deposits that are the 
focus of exploration and development. Conflicts 
over mineral activities in these areas are 
becoming increasingly common. Individual 
American Indians often view these lands as 
sacred and regard any disturbance or intrusion 
in these areas as desecration that cannot be 
mitigated. 

Sometimes the use of the public lands is 
subject to treaties between the United States and 
a particular tribe. Treaty rights are often defined 
from the "canons of treaty construction": 

• That ambiguities must be resolved in favor of 
the Indians. 

• That treaties must be interpreted as the 
Indians would have understood them. 

• That the treaties must be construed liberally 
in favor of Indians. 

Since these treaties were signed between 
sovereign nations, the retained rights have a 
constitutional basis. These rights may include 
access to and use of "unoccupied federal land" 
in the conduct of daily lives, usually for 
subsistence activities. The exercise of treaty 
rights would supersede the requirements or 
procedures in the 3809 regulations and is 
outside the scope of the regulations. 

Regulatory Statutes and Executive 
Order 13084 

The American Indian Religious Freedom 
Act of 1978 (AIRFA) and Executive Order 
13007 require federal agencies to evaluate their 
policies and procedures to protect the religious 
freedom of American Indians. ATRFA was 



255 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



passed as a joint resolution of Congress and has 
no implementing regulations. The intent of 
AIRFA is to preserve for the American Indian 
the inherent freedom to practice traditional 
religions, including access to religious sites, use 
and possession of sacred objects, and freedom 
to worship through traditional ceremonies. 

In American Indian religious practice, any 
geographic area can contain places that are 
significant for sacred practices or purposes. 
Those sacred places may embody spiritual 
values of specific landforms, indigenous rock 
art, medicine wheels, rock cairns, effigy figures, 
spirit trails and gates, caves, springs or lakes, 
Indian graves, and contemporary use areas. 
AIRFA requires agencies to consult with 
American Indians on religious use of an area 
but does not give that use controlling authority 
over other uses. 

The Native American Graves Protection and 
Repatriation Act protects American Indian 
burial sites and access to them, prohibiting the 
desecration and removal of these sacred sites 
and associated materials. These sites may not be 
generally known but may be found through 
formal inventory, archaeological studies, or 
inadvertent discoveries. 

Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have 
affirmed the trust responsibility between the 
tribes and the United States. This doctrine 
relates to reservation and nonreservation lands 
where federal or federally authorized activities 
may affect tribal resources or the quality of life 
on the reservation. 

Executive Order 13084, signed May 14, 
1998, requires "regular and meaningful 
consultation and collaboration with Indian tribal 
governments in the development of regulatory 
practices on Federal matters that significantly or 
uniquely affect their communities; to reduce the 
imposition of unfunded mandates upon Indian 
tribal governments; and to streamline the 
application process for and increase the 
availability of waivers to Indian tribal 
governments." Because tribal lands are not 
defined as "federal lands" in the existing or 
proposed regulations and because the purpose 
of the executive order is to reinforce tribal 
standards rather than impose unfunded 



mandates on the tribes, this executive order is 
not likely to affect the applying of the 
regulations 

The Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act (ANILCA) protects Native 
Alaskan and rural population subsistence 
activity on public lands. This act provides that 
the agency consider the affect of its actions on 
subsistence efforts of these groups. This 
consideration is applied as agency permit 
activity on a site-specific basis. 

Generally, the states have no regulatory 
statutes for consulting with federally recognized 
tribes. But states do consult with tribes as they 
would with the public or a local division of 
government. 

Historic Impacts 

Consultation with recognized tribes has 
been inconsistent in the past. Since the 1980s 
consultation has become an increasingly 
important part of authorizing activities and 
planning. 

Although not federal actions, BLM has 
conducted a limited number of consultations on 
Notice-level activity with tribal governments. 
The highest level of consultation occurred in 
New Mexico with 20% of the Notices. There is 
no record of consultation in six of the 1 1 BLM 
western states in the study area (not including 
Alaska). Tribal governments have either 
commented on or objected to 5% of the Notices 
in Montana. 

Where BLM has played a definitive role in 
authorizing activities under a Plan, its 
consultation with tribes has been more 
consistent. Since 1990 most BLM states have 
actively sought comment from tribal 
governments on Plans of Operations, with an 
average of 27% of the Plans being submitted for 
consultation and 4% being amended or changed 
in response to consultation. 

In several cases surface disturbance under 
Notices or Plans has adversely affected or had 
the potential to affect localities important to 
American Indian traditional lifeway values or 
traditional cultural properties eligible for the 
National Register. Despite consultation, some 



256 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



American Indians regard surface-disturbing 
activities in certain areas as desecration. Such 
disturbance cannot be mitigated to eliminate 
American Indian objections to the actions. 

Few state regulatory programs have 
mandated consultation on any issues outside the 
designated reservation on either state or private 
land. 

BLM has addressed subsistence activities, 
particularly as related to Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), in 
several-site specific placer mining EISs from 
Alaska: Fortymile River (BLM 1988d), Birch 
Creek (BLM 1988a), Beaver Creek (BLM 
1988b), and Minto Flats (BLM 1988e) EISs. 
These documents have discussed potential 
impacts to subsistence activities. In general, 
placer mining could affect subsistence uses and 
needs in the following ways: 

• By reducing potable water quality of a stream 
used as a source of drinking water. 

• By disturbing or destroying fisheries, animal 
populations, or habitats that support 
subsistence fishing, hunting, or trapping. 

• By increasing harvest through creating more 
or better access routes into an area. 

• By causing sedimentation of waterways, 
which impedes human access to subsistence 
resources. 

Each of the EISs found that mining would 
pose no more significant restrictions to 
subsistence activities and that applying 
performance and reclamation standards, in some 
cases, would have a net beneficial effect to 
access and water quality. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Recent Regulatory Changes Affecting 
Impacts under Alternatives 1, 3, 4, and 5 

Since the completion of the draft EIS, 
changes in the 36 CFR 800 regulations now 
require consultation with tribal historic 
preservation officers. When Indian tribes and 
Native Hawaiian organizations attach religious 



and cultural significance to historic properties 
on and off tribal lands, consultation is required 
under section 101(d)(6)(B) of the National 
Historic Preservation Act. This consultation will 
reduce impacts to traditional cultural places, 
and properties that have religious or cultural 
significance by requiring mitigating measures to 
be examined with tribal historic preservation 
officers. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Consultation with potentially affected 
parties would continue to improve as a result of 
recent executive orders and management 
guidance on BLM's responsibility to the tribes. 
Tribal governments would also continue to play 
a more assertive role in land use planning to 
protect areas of traditional cultural importance. 

Despite complete consultation, mineral 
exploration and development could harm some 
areas of traditional cultural importance. 
Residual impacts can be expected to continue 
from Notice-level activity because of the 
nondiscretionary nature of activities under the 
Mining Law and the inability to mitigate 
impacts to American Indian values. 

Potential adverse impacts to subsistence 
rights are expected to continue as in the past 
(see Historic Impacts from Mining section 
under the Affected Environment above) and 
would continue to be considered on a site- 
specific basis. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Adverse impacts to American Indian 
traditional cultural practices and resources are 
likely to increase under State Management. The 
level of mineral activity would increase slightly, 
and the greater the level of activity, the greater 
the potential for impacts. More importantly, 
most states do not have a mandate for 
consultation. Nor do they have a trust 
responsibility to protect tribal rights. 
Opportunities would decline for tribes to 
consult with the permitting authority on 
mitigating measures that could reduce impacts 
to their traditional cultural values. 



257 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



The State of Alaska is not bound by the 
provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act (ANILCA) to address impacts 
to subsistence activities. Exploration or mining 
could result in more adverse impacts to 
subsistence activities without applying the 
provision of ANILCA. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Adverse impacts to American Indian 
traditional cultural practices and resources are 
likely to decrease under the Proposed Action. 
The level of mineral activity would slightly 
decrease because the lower the level of activity, 
the less the potential for impacts. 

Impacts would also decline because of 
increased levels of consultation with American 
Indians. The increase in special status areas and 
added requirement for when BLM would 
require Plans of Operations would result in 
more complete reviews of proposed activity and 
provide for extended consultation with 
American Indians. 

But even improved consultation and 
reduced levels of mineral activity would not 
eliminate adverse impacts to areas of traditional 
cultural importance. Some residual impacts 
would continue from Notice-level activity 
because of the nondiscretionary nature of 
activities under the Mining Law and the 
inability to mitigate certain impacts to American 
Indian values. 

The language used in the proposed 
definition of "unnecessary or undue 
degradation" would prohibit standard to include 
"substantial irreparable harm to significant 
scientific, cultural, or environmental resource 
values of the public lands that cannot be 
effectively mitigated." This means that 
consultation through the National Historic 
Preservation Act (36CFR800.6(a)) would be 
used where the standard is to be met for Plan- 
level activities affecting historic properties. 
Effects from Notices would still be considered, 
and consultation might still occur, but such 
actions would be outside the National Historic 
Preservation Act process because Notices are 
not federal undertakings. 



Under the proposed regulations processing 
both Notices and Plans would involve increased 
consultation and consideration of Native 
American resource concerns, thereby reducing 
impacts to these resources or perhaps 
preventing harm by denying operations where 
the resource is significant and mitigation would 
not be effective. Traditional cultural resources 
would significantly benefit. 

Potential impacts to subsistence rights 
would continue as in the past (see Historic 
Impacts from Mining section under Affected 
Environment above), and BLM would continue 
to consider these impacts on a site-specific 
basis. 

Alternative 4: Maximum Protection 

Adverse impacts to American Indian 
traditional cultural practices and resources 
would decrease substantially under the 
Maximum Protection Alternative. The level of 
mineral activity would decrease moderately, and 
the lower the level of activity, the less the 
potential for impacts. Adverse impacts would 
also decrease because of increased levels of 
consultation with American Indians. 

The elimination of Notices would make all 
activity above casual use subject to the review 
and consultation requirements of Plans of 
Operations. This change would result in more 
complete reviews of proposed activity and 
provide for extended consultation with 
American Indians to mitigate impacts. 

In addition, BLM would require 
concurrence by potentially affected American 
Indians before approving surface disturbance on 
lands with traditional cultural importance, or 
lands used for traditional cultural practices. This 
requirement would greatly reduce or prevent 
adverse impacts to American Indian traditional 
cultural practices and resources. 

The inclusion of split-estate lands under the 
3809 regulations would give American Indians 
more opportunity to consult and mitigate 
impacts where, in the past, surface ownership 
has prevented such consultation or rendered it 
moot. 



258 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Potential adverse impacts to subsistence 
rights would continue as in the past (see 
Historic Impacts from Mining section under 
Affected Environment above), and BLM would 
continue to consider these impacts on a site- 
specific basis. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Alternative 5 would eliminate impacts from 
Notice-level activities other than exploration. A 
decline in impacts would continue as a result of 
more complete consultations. 

Social Conditions 

Affected Environment 

Demographic and Social Trends in 
the West 

In 1999, the population of the 12 western 
states in the E1S study area was 60 million. 
While these 1 2 states contain nearly half of the 
area of the United States, they are home to only 
22% of the Nation's population. California has 
the largest population with more than 33 million 
residents. Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming each 
have fewer than a million people. Population 
densities vary from fewer than 5 people per 
square mile in Wyoming to more than 200 
people per square mile in California. Though 
the area's population grew by 16% between 
1990 and 1999, individual states varied. Nevada 
and Arizona grew the fastest, increasing by 51% 
and 30% respectively. Wyoming, Montana, and 
California grew the slowest at 6%, 11%, and 
1 1 % respectively. 

In the rural West, population and social 
trends tend to respond to unique issues. Many 
areas are experiencing a significant increase in 
population after decades of stability or decline. 
Other rural areas continue to lose population 
due in part to the outmigration of young people 
who leave for advanced education, military 
service, and employment. Still other rural areas 
are subject to the population and employment 
boom-and-busl cycles of mining and other 
resource development. 



The movement of people and jobs into 
some rural areas began in the 1970s and is 
expected to continue into the 21st century. The 
migration turn-around reflects a reversal of the 
rural-to- urban migration pattern found in most 
of the United States before the 1 970s. 
Intermountain valleys, the settings for such 
places as Salmon, Idaho, and Missoula, 
Montana, typically experience inmigration. In 
scenic areas, particularly those suitable for 
recreation, ranches are being sold for recreation 
uses or subdivided for homes. Some immigrants 
buy small lots to ranch or farm but do not 
depend on an economic return from the 
property. These rural areas are moving from a 
long-term economic dependency on agriculture, 
logging, or mining to a dependency on 
recreation and tourism. This population 
inmigration has increased contacts between 
long-time rural residents and newcomers whose 
beliefs and values may challenge the existing 
way of life. Long-timers may feel they have lost 
control of their community, making it a less 
desirable place for them to live. 

Other rural areas have continued to lose 
residents in the last decade. These communities 
typically have had economies based on 
agriculture, logging, oil and gas, or other 
mineral development and have suffered declines 
in population as agriculture mechanized and 
mineral development efforts came and went 
(boomed and busted). Some of these 
communities have difficulty maintaining their 
local businesses as well as such services as 
schools and health care. Residents are 
concerned about the economic survival of their 
communities and preserving their traditional 
lifestyles. While these communities can be 
located in many regions of the study area, many 
of them are on the western edge of the Great 
Plains in central and eastern Montana and 
Wyoming. 

Major cities in the West-Denver, Seattle, 
Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Los 
Angeles-have experienced significant growth 
over the last few decades. These urban centers 
are often the areas where environmental 
attitudes are most pronounced and many 
environmental groups have headquarters. 



259 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



National and Regional Attitudes 

Discussions about changes in the 3809 
mining regulations are just one aspect of a 
broader debate on environmental issues and 
resource management that is occurring both in 
American society and globally. According to the 
report of the Forest Ecosystem Management 
Assessment Team (FEMAT) (1993), "This 
growing concern with the environment, from 
the international to local levels, appears linked 
to some fundamental structural changes taking 
place in industrialized societies. Shifts in 
education levels, population distribution, and 
composition and make-up of the labor force all 
combine to bring increased concern with issues 
related to the quality of life and other types of 
personal attitudes, including natural resources 
and the environment." 

According to Stankey and Clark (1991), 
social values for lands and natural resources 
take many forms: 

• Commodity values: timber, range forage, 
minerals. 

• Amenity values: lifestyle, scenery, wildlife, 
nature. 

• Environmental quality values: air, water 
quality. 

• Ecological values: habitat conservation, 
sustainability, threatened and endangered 
species, biodiversity. 

• Public use values: subsistence, recreation, 
tourism. 

• Spiritual values: sacred places, wilderness 
areas. 

• Health: medicines. 

• Security: sense of social continuity and 
heritage. 

In the past, natural resource management 
has tended to emphasize commodity values. The 
emerging emphasis on other values has forced a 
reevaluation of the commodity emphasis. 
Stankey and Clark's (1991) report states, "A 
new focus on the part of the public involved a 
shift from commodities and services to 
environments and habitats." More profoundly, 
these changing value orientations within society 



have led to changing expectations concerning 
the management of public lands. 

A nationwide survey conducted by Roper 
Starch Worldwide (1997) offers some 
interesting information on attitudes toward 
environmental issues and regulations. When 
asked what was the leading environmental issue 
we face today, pollution was named by 60%, 
with 4 1 % of respondents specifying air 
pollution and 29% specifying water pollution. 
Of the survey respondents, 65% said that 
environmental protection and economic 
development can go hand in hand. But nearly 
70% said that when a compromise cannot be 
reached, they would choose the environment, 
while 15% would choose economic 
development. 

Respondents to this survey were also asked 
whether they thought environmental laws and 
regulations had gone too far, had not gone far 
enough, or had achieved the right balance. 
Almost three times as many respondents 
thought laws and regulations had not gone far 
enough (46%) as those who thought laws and 
regulations had gone too far (17%). Just over a 
quarter of the respondents (27%) thought the 
laws had struck the right balance; 29% of 
respondents living in rural areas and 27% of 
respondents living in the West stated that 
environmental regulation had gone too far. 

The following percentages of respondents 
stated that laws and regulations had not gone far 
enough in confronting the following 
environment issues: 

• 72%, preventing water pollution. 

• 62%, preventing air pollution. 

• 48%, protecting wild or natural areas. 

• 44%, protecting wetlands. 

• 41%, protecting endangered plants and 
animals. 

A counter-movement has been growing in 
the West. Where land use has been relatively 
unrestricted, there is increasing concern about 
the management and regulation of public lands. 
People with these concerns feel that change in 
public land management is being driven by 
government officials and environmental 



260 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



advocacy groups who do not have a true 
understanding of the lands or nearby residents 
who depend upon these lands for their 
livelihood and recreation. There is particular 
concern about the loss of traditional land uses 
such as livestock grazing, mining, and off-road 
vehicle use. People with these concerns seek to 
balance what they consider to be environmental 
extremism with economic and human concerns. 

In scoping and other comment letters, some 
writers said that the freedom to engage in 
mining is part of the American heritage. They 
feel the romance and lure of prospecting and 
treasure hunting have been key components of 
our culture and history. As one commenter 
stated, 

We in the West are proud of our mining 
heritage. In past generations, miners walked 
into unknown, hostile country to search for 
minerals to advance the new industrial age, 
without which we would not have the standard 
of living we do today. They were the ultimate 
pioneers because they came alone, not in wagon 
trains with many others to provide personal 
safety. They helped settle the West as much as 
farmers, ranchers and merchants, and, without 
their discoveries, the railroad would not have 
been encouraged to extend westward. This 
country would not have grown and become the 
great power it is today with minerals discovered 
by these mining pioneers. 

Miners 

This section will focus on small "mom and 
pop" type operations (up to three or four 
people) that function without outside financial 
backing. These operations may engage in 
exploration or small placer, open pit, or 
underground mines although they are most 
likely to engage in exploration or placer mining. 
Most of this activity operates as casual use or 
under Notices because these operations disturb 
less than 5 acres. The number of these miners is 
declining overall, although some new people 
are entering the field. In some cases several 
generations of a family work a claim. Some 
have family members employed outside the 
mine for more financial support. Many of these 



miners live an independent, solitary, self- 
sufficient lifestyle, especially in Alaska. These 
miners may also be mechanics, pilots, loggers, 
and skilled in construction; a variety of skills 
helps them maintain their independent lifestyle. 

Some operations offer large financial 
rewards; others are marginal. Some miners from 
Alaska spend the summers mining and the 
winters in the lower 48 states. In the other 1 1 
states in the study area some people spend their 
summers in northern states such as Idaho and 
their winters in places like Arizona working 
their claims. Little is known about these miners 
from a sociological standpoint. They do, 
however, appear to identify highly with their 
occupation and the lifestyle of that occupation 
and would resent being forced to change either. 

Communities 

The effects of mining on a rural community 
can be divided into four phases: exploration, 
development, production, and phase down or 
closure (Wenner 1992). 

During exploration, the major effects would 
be increased business volume for motels, 
restaurants, and gas stations, plus some 
temporary employment for local residents. 
During this phase, local residents and special 
interest groups may become aware of potential 
nearby mineral development. The intensity of 
their reaction varies from one project to another 
depending on factors such as local economic 
conditions, existing land uses, local lifestyles, 
outdoor recreation preferences, the ecological 
sensitivity of the development site, and the way 
in which the proposed activity is designed and 
presented to the public. In general, local 
facilities and services do not need to 
significantly expand for exploration. 

Site development is often the most labor- 
intensive phase of operations and can cause 
more social impacts than exploration and 
production because the workforce is larger. 
During this phase, employment opportunities 
for local residences and local expenditures 
might benefit some local residents. Rural 
counties and communities can be seriously 
overburdened if the firms involved fail to 



261 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



provide the housing and services their new 
employees require. The negative consequences 
of rapid development, such as increased crime 
rates and increased need for mental health 
services, are most evident under such 
conditions. 

The production phase is ordinarily the most 
stable and enduring phase of a mineral 
operation. A major mine may operate 
continuously for two or three generations. Its 
presence in a relatively rural area is imposing 
and influences the social organization, outlook, 
and lifestyles of nearby communities. 

The rate of population change is the single 
most important factor affecting community 
well- being, contributing to prosperity and 
infrastructure improvements in some instances 
and to economic instability, social 
disorganization, and adverse social conditions in 
others. As time goes on, community facilities 
expand to meet the needs of the newcomers, 
and they become integrated into the community. 

A phase down or closure of a large mine 
can be a traumatic experience, especially for 
small communities in sparsely populated areas. 
The loss of well-paid jobs and the resulting 
outmigration can affect real estate values, the 
volume of local business activity, school 
enrollments, organizational membership, and 
the economic security and outlook of most of 
the resident population. 

Communities come in a variety of forms 
and sizes, resulting in differing abilities to adapt 
to change. One study for the Interior Columbia 
Basin Ecosystem Project (Harris and others 
1995) categorized communities by a variety of 
factors and determined the qualities that make a 
community "resilient" or able to manage 
change. According to the study, the qualities 
that allow communities to manage change 
include the following: 

• Strong civic leadership. 

• Strong economic structure. 

• High degree of physical amenities. 

• Positive, proactive attitude toward change. 

• Large population. 



Residents of small communities that rely on 
mining have voiced many concerns during this 
process. These concerns include effects to 
employment, families, lifestyles, and 
communities. Some said that the loss of high- 
paying jobs is particularly difficult where high- 
paying jobs are hard to find, and that mining 
employment, even if it doesn't last forever, can 
enable someone in the family to go back to 
school, or allow a family to purchase a home. 
Others said that some farms and ranch 
operations get through hard times when 
someone in the family finds a job in the mining 
industry. 

Some also discussed the dependency of 
rural communities on tax monies and skills 
provided by the mining industry. Some stated 
that mining can give a small community 
technical expertise that a community of that size 
would not normally have, and that mining 
companies are good neighbors. 

Environmental Advocacy Groups 

During the scoping period, BLM received 
many letters from environmental advocacy 
groups stating their support for changes in the 
surface management regulations. Comments 
from the different groups were similar, and 
some groups submitted joint comments. These 
groups believe that active and abandoned mines 
continue to inflict substantial environmental 
damage on public lands in the study area and 
that strengthening the regulations could result in 
real environmental gains. Specific ideas 
included the following: 

• Strengthening reclamation standards. 

• Conducting unannounced inspections. 

• Including third-party monitoring with more 
inspections of high-risk mines such as 
cyanide heap leach operations. 

• Requiring Notice-level operations to operate 
under the same regulations as larger mines. 

Some groups said that BLM should be able 
to deny mining where it is not a suitable use of 
public lands, such as areas with important 



262 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



water, wildlife, scenic, or recreation resources. 
According to these groups, BLM should also 
deny mining where a mining company cannot 
demonstrate that a mine site can be reclaimed. 
Some groups also said that they will continue to 
work for comprehensive reform of the 1 872 
Mining Law. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Alternative 1: No Action 

Effects to miners of small operations and to 
communities would continue as they have in the 
past because mining regulations would not 
change. Miners on small operations would 
support this alternative because changes in 
regulations would not affect their current 
occupation or lifestyle. 

Increasing numbers of people in the West 
and across the country believe that the surface 
management regulations should increase 
emphasis on protecting amenity resources. (See 
discussion under National Attitudes at the 
beginning of the Social Conditions section.) 
Alternative 1 is not consistent with these 
attitudes. 

The environmental advocacy groups and 
many of the people associated with these groups 
would not support current management because 
they believe it does not sufficiently protect the 
resources on public lands. The condition of the 
resources on public lands is important to these 
people because they value these resources for 
recreation, wildlife, scenic and spiritual 
qualities, and a variety of other reasons. Many 
appreciate just knowing that these areas exist 
and would continue to exist in the future. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Generally effects to miners of small 
operations and to communities would continue 
as they have in the past because mining under- 
state regulation would be similar to current 
management. Miners on small operations would 
support this alternative because changes in 
regulations would not affect their current 
occupation or lifestyle. Mining-dependent 



communities may develop benefits based on the 
slight increase in overall mining. 

Increasing numbers of people in the West 
and across the country believe that the surface 
management regulations should increase 
emphasis on protecting amenity resources. (See 
discussion under National Attitudes at the 
beginning of this section.) Alternative 2 is not 
consistent with these attitudes. 

The environmental advocacy groups and 
many of the people associated with these groups 
would not support Alternative 2 because it 
would result in no federal regulation of 
locatable minerals mining on public lands. In 
the opinion of these groups, this alternative 
would result in insufficient protection of 
resources on public lands. In addition, BLM 
would be seen as abdicating its management 
responsibility. The condition of the resources on 
public lands is important to these people 
because they value these resources for 
recreation, wildlife, scenic and spiritual 
qualities, and a variety of other reasons. Many 
appreciate just knowing that these areas exist 
and would continue to exist in the future. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Under the Proposed Action activity by 
small operations (i.e. exploration, placer 
mining, and open pit mining) is estimated to 
decline by 10% to 30% because more 
operations would have to submit Notices or 
Plans of Operations and meet other 
requirements such as bonding. But the level of 
change that would actually occur is highly 
uncertain. Miners who could not continue in the 
mining business might find the search for 
satisfactory alternative employment to be 
difficult. 

The stress of needing to change professions 
and possibly lifestyles has repeatedly surfaced 
as an important social problem. All people, 
through the socialization process, form a mental 
picture of "who they are." Groups of people 
such as loggers, ranchers, miners, and farmers 
tend to strongly identify themselves as 
belonging and being in a certain life role. It is 
extremely hard for them to imagine themselves 



263 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



"being" anything else (Lee and others 1991). 
This is especially true if the person has been 
engaged in a business and lifestyle for many 
years. 

The effects to these miners might be 
mitigated by the fact that many rely on an array 
of skills and abilities, not just mining, to 
support themselves. Also, in the long ran, the 
effects might lessen as miners become 
knowledgeable about the new regulations. 
Miners on small operations would oppose these 
changes because of concern about impacts to 
their occupation and lifestyle. 

Under the Proposed Action the declines in 
mineral activity for large exploration, placer, 
and open pit mines could decline by 10% to 
30%. The level of change that would actually 
occur is highly uncertain. All or some of the 
decrease would be due to forgone future mining 
rather than current operations shutting down. 

In small isolated communities with a high 
degree of specialization in mining, the impact 
of a mine shutting down would be significant. 
The loss of well-paid jobs would result in 
outmigration, which would lower real estate 
values, the volume of local business activity, 
school enrollments, organizational membership, 
and community leadership. The tax burden 
might be increased or the level of services 
reduced for those who remain in the 
community. 

These changes could occur at a time of 
increased demand for social services due to 
employment losses. The economic security and 
outlook of most of the resident population, as 
well as their level of social well-being would be 
adversely affected (Wenner 1992). Nevada 
communities would have the greatest potential 
for significant impact because of the potential 
effects to large open pit operations and their 
concentration in Nevada. Larger communities 
with a lesser degree of specialization in mining 
are less likely to be affected. 

Increasing numbers of people in the West 
and across the country believe that the surface 
management regulations should have an 
increased emphasis on protecting amenity 
resources. (See discussion under National 



Attitudes at the beginning of this section.) 
Alternative 3 is consistent with these attitudes. 

Under the Proposed Action the 
environmental advocacy groups who 
participated in scoping and many of the people 
associated with these groups would support this 
alternative because they would feel that wildlife 
and water resources are being more adequately 
protected. Some environmental advocacy 
groups, however, would feel that the problems 
they perceive with locatable mineral mining on 
public lands are going to be addressed only with 
the revision of the 1 872 Mining Law. The 
condition of the resources on public lands is 
important to these people because they value 
these resources for recreation, wildlife, scenic 
and spiritual qualities, and a variety of other 
reasons. Many appreciate just knowing that 
these areas exist and would continue to exist in 
the future. 

Alternative 4: Maximum Protection 

Under the Maximum Protection Alternative 
mineral activity for small operations (i.e. 
exploration, placer, and open pit mines) would 
decline by 20% to 50%. Large operations would 
decline by an estimated 20% to 75%. All 
operations would have to submit Plans of 
Operations and meet bonding and reclamation 
requirements. The effects to persons and 
communities would be similar to those 
described for the Proposed Action, but much 
more severe. 

Increasing numbers of people in the West 
and across the country believe that mining 
management should emphasize protecting 
amenity resources. (See discussion under 
National Attitudes at the beginning of this 
section.) Alternative 4 is consistent with these 
attitudes. 

The environmental advocacy groups and 
many of the people associated with these groups 
would support Alternative 4 because they would 
feel wildlife and water resources are being more 
adequately protected. Some environmental 
advocacy groups, however, would feel that the 
problems they perceive with locatable minerals 
mining on public lands are going to be 



264 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



addressed only with the revision of the 1872 
Mining Law. The condition of the resources on 
public lands is important to these people 
because they value these resources for 
recreation, wildlife, scenic and spiritual 
qualities, and a variety of other reasons. Many 
appreciate just knowing that these areas exist 
and would continue to exist in the future. 

Alternative 5: NRC 
Recommendations 

Activity by small operations (i.e. 
exploration, placer mining, and open pit 
mining) is estimated to decline by 0% to 10% 
under Alternative 5. For small miners who must 
find alternative employment, the effects would 
be the same as those described for Alternative 
3. The effect is expected to be small and might 
lessen in the long term as miners become 
knowledgeable about the regulation changes. 
Miners on small operations may oppose these 
changes because of concern about impacts to 
their occupation and lifestyle. 

Activity by large operations (i.e. 
exploration, placer mining, and open pit 
mining) is estimated to decline by 0% to 5%. 
Small rural communities are expected to lose 
only a few jobs relative to overall employment. 
All or some of this decrease might be due to 
forgone future mining rather than current 
operations shutting down. Little social impact to 
communities is expected under Alternative 5. 

An increasing number of people in the West 
and across the country believe that the surface 
management regulations should have an 
increased emphasis on protecting amenity 
resources. (See discussion under National 
Attitudes at the beginning of the Social 
Conditions sections.) Alternative 5 is consistent 
with these attitudes, but some people may feel 
that it does not go far enough to protect the 
environment. 

Under Alternative 5, the environmental 
advocacy groups who participated in scoping 
and many of the people associated with these 
groups would feel that wildlife and water 
resources are not being protected well enough. 
The condition of the resources on public lands 



is important to these people because they value 
these resources for recreation, wildlife, scenic, 
and spiritual qualities, and a variety of other 
reasons. Many appreciate just knowing that 
these areas exist and would continue to exist in 
the future. 

Economic Conditions 

Affected Environment 

This analysis describes trends generally 
dating back to 1 980 to include the entire period 
that surface mining regulations have been in 
effect, and also to include trends that are 
expected to affect the industry into the 
foreseeable future. 

Mineral Production 

Contribution of Western States to 
Domestic Mine Production. In 1998 mine 
production of nonfuel minerals in the United 
States totaled $39.6 billion. Currently the 12 
western states in the study area contain 49% of 
the total land area in the United States 
(including all land ownership types) and 
contribute 40% of all nonfuel mineral 
production nationwide, $16 billion as of 1998. 
The portion of total domestic production 
originating from the western states has ranged 
from 38% in 1980 to 43% in 1990 (see Table 3- 
29). 

Since 1990 the top three states in the United 
States in the value of mine production have 
been western states: Nevada, California, and 
Arizona. These three states alone, with 1 1 % of 
the total U.S. land base, contribute 23% of the 
total value of domestic mine production of 
nonfuel minerals. Further, these three states 
possess 22% of the land base in the study area 
but contribute 57% of area's total value of mine 
production (see Table 3-29). 

A closer look at production by commodity 
reveals that the western states contributed more 
than 96% of all domestic precious metals 
production (e.g. gold and silver), 99% of all 
copper mine production, and 47% of other base 
metals and locatable-type industrials combined. 
Overall, the study area contributed an estimated 



265 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



69% of the Nation's total locatable-type nonfuel 
mineral production in 1998, or $1 1 billion. 
("Locatable-type" minerals are the types of 
minerals that if found on public land would be 
considered locatable.) As these numbers show, 
the western states produce a disproportionate 
share of domestic mine production of locatable- 
type minerals. (See Table 3-30 and Figure 3-3.) 

Not all of this production comes from 
BLM-administered public lands. It is difficult to 
determine the portion of total mine production 
of all locatable-type minerals originating from 
BLM-administered land for two reasons: mines 
are not required to report these figures, and 
many mining operations are on lands in mixed 
ownership (some combination of federal, state, 
or private lands). 

Nevertheless, two recent reports estimate 
federal land production. These reports show that 
by commodity the portion mined from federal 
lands is highly variable (USDI 1993; GAO 
1992). About 43% of gold mine production in 



the western states is estimated to come from 
federal lands, 1% of copper production, and 2% 
of industrial minerals overall. 

Table 3-3 1 shows the portion of locatable- 
type minerals produced from federal lands 
based on these percentages. In total, about 10%, 
or $1.7 billion, of all locatable-type minerals 
combined are estimated to originate from 
federal lands. Most of this value is due to gold 
production, of which $1.4 billion is estimated to 
come from federal lands. 

Two factors may cause either an 
overestimate or underestimate of the value of 
mine production from BLM lands. First, these 
estimates include all federal ownership, not 
merely BLM- administered lands, which would 
overstate the value of mine production. Second, 
these estimates do not include mining facilities 
other than the mine itself and would tend to 
understate the value of production originating 
from BLM lands. 



Figure 3-3 

Western States Contribution to U.S. Mine Production 

of Locatable-Type Minerals in Relation 

to Land Base -1998 




Western States contain 
49% of total U.S. land 
base 



Gold Copper Total Locatable - Type 

Silver Other Locatable -Type 



Source: Smith 1998; BLM 1998a 



r~l Percent of U.S. Production 



266 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-29. Value of Nonfuel Mineral Production 1980-1998 ($000) 1 


State 


1980 


1990 


1998 


Statewide Acreage 2 


Alaska 


$113,000 


$577,000 


$999,000 


$365,482,000 


Arizona 


2,430,000 


3,065,000 


2,770,000 


72,688,000 


California 


1890,000 


2,780,000 


2,980,000 


100,207,000 


Colorado 


1,260,000 


386,000 


650,000 


66,486,000 


Idaho 


522,000 


400,000 


453,000 


52,933,000 


Montana 


280,000 


568,000 


502,000 


93,271,000 


Nevada 


386,000 


2,611,000 


3,170,000 


70,264,000 


New Mexico 


765,000 


1,098,000 


888,000 


77,766,000 


Oregon 


150,000 


237,000 


301,000 


61,599,000 


Utah 


759,000 


1,334,000 


1,320,000 


52,697,000 


Washington 


207,000 


473,000 


609,000 


42,694,000 


Wyoming 


761,000 


911,000 


1,070,000 


62,343,000 


Study-Area Total 


9,520,000 


14,440,000 


15,712,000 


1,118,429,000 


U.S. Total 


$25,108,000 


$33,319,000 


$39,600,000 


$2,271,343,000 


Study Area as Percent of U.S. 


38% 


43% 


40% 


49% 


Includes all nonfuel minerals, not all of which are "locatable-type" (such 


as sand and grave 


, and other construc- 


tion-type industrial minerals). Dollar figures rounded to three significant digits. 




Figures represent total statewide land area for all ownership types (fedi 


3ral and nonfederal 


. 


Sources: Smith 1998; USBM 1982, 1992; BLM 2000a. 




I 



Table 3-30. Estimated Value of "Locatable-type" Nonfuel Mineral Production, 1 Total Value of Nonfuel 


Mineral Production and Ranking of Western States - 1998 ($000) 






State 


Gold 


Silver 


Copper 


Other 
Metals and 
Industrials 2 


Total Value of 

Mine Production 

(Locatable-type 

Minerals) 


Total Value of 

Mine Production 

(All Nonfuel 

Minerals)' 


Alaska 


$61,000 


$21,800 


N/A4 


$478,000 


$561,000 


$613,000 


Arizona 


21,800 


31,500 


2,980,000 


304,000 


3,340,000 


3,580,000 


California 


299,000 


3,620 





959,000 


1,260,000 


2,830,000 


Colorado 


60,000 


1,250 





251,000 


312,000 


513,000 


Idaho 


92,800 


38,400 


N/A 


243,000 


374,000 


449,000 


Montana 


114,000 


15,700 


94,000 


223,000 


447,000 


491,000 


Nevada 


2,680,000 


101,000 


58,000 


233,000 


3,070,000 


3,230,000 


New Mexico 


5,010 


3,330 


615,000 


76,200 


700,000 


992,000 


Oregon 











76,200 


76,200 


265,000 


Utah 


290,000 


27,700 


708,000 


530,000 


1,560,000 


1,730,000 


Washington 


48,600 








163,000 


212,000 


535,000 


Wyoming 











202,000 


202,000 


1,080,000 


Study-Area Total 


3,670,000 


244,000 


4,500,000 


3,740,000 


12,100,000 


16,300,000 


U.S. Total 


$3,980,000 


263,000 


$4,610,000 


$8,800,000 


$17,700,00 


$38,700,000 


Study Area as Percent 


96% 


98% 


99% 


47% 


69% 


40% 


of U.S. Total 














'Includes gold, silver, copper, and other metals (platinum group, lead 


zinc, molybden 


urn, etc.). Also includes large 


variety of industrial minerals such as barite, bentonite, diatomite, gem 


stones, gypsur 


i, limestone, perlite, pumice, 


silica stone, talc, vermiculite, etc. 2 Other Base Metals and Industrials 


sxclude commc 


in clay, phosphate, potash, 


salt, sand, gravel, sodium, stone, and sulfur because these minerals < 


are not "locatab 


le" when found on public land. 


3 For some states, figures for specific minerals reported by USGS wer 


3 withheld to a\ 


'oid disclosure of confidential 


data and appear in totals with other minerals. Consequently, for some 


minerals (e.g. 


copper), state production val- 


ues were estimated from state reports and other sources. Some othe 


- withheld mine 


ral values are contained in 


"Total Value of Mine Production." 4 N/A means not available or not apj 


jlicable. 




Source: Smith 1998; USGS various years (b). 







267 



Chapter } - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-31. Value of Locatable Mineral Production Originating from Federal Lands - 1998 ($000) 


Portion of study-area 












production originating 












from public lands 1 


43.4% 


36.2% 


1 .0% 


2.4% 


N/A 


State 


Gold 


Silver 


Copper 


Other Metals 
and Industrials 


Total 


Alaska 


$75,500 


$26,600 


$0 


$16,100 


$118,000 


Arizona 


7,550 


12,600 


20,600 


9,140 


49,900 


California 


76,800 


673 





19,600 


97,100 


Colorado 


31,700 


825 





7,460 


40,000 


Idaho 


23,000 


26,500 





5,830 


55,300 


Montana 


33,800 


4,560 


820 


6,7100 


45,900 


Nevada 


1,120,000 


39,800 


1,170 


4,920 


1,170,000 


New Mexico 


11,700 


1,200 


4,380 


8,290 


25,600 


Oregon 











2,010 


2,010 


Utah 


47,700 


6,910 


4,880 


10,800 


70,300 


Washington 


14,600 


37 





3,730 


18,300 


Wyoming 











5,240 


5,240 


Study-Area Total 


1 ,440,000 


120,000 


31,900 


99,800 


1,700,000 


U.S. Total (all land types) 


$3,480,000 


$339,000 


$3,220,000 


$8,920,000 


$16,000,000 


Federal Land Portion as 


42% 


35% 


1% 


1% 


11% 


Percent of U.S. Total 












'Source: USDI 1993. 












N/A = not applicable. Figu 


res rounded to th 


■ee significant di< 


gits. Some totals may reflect rounding 


errors. 


Note: Includes all productic 


in from federal la 


ids, not just proc 


iuction from BLM-administered lands. 





Although mine production figures for some 
base metals such as zinc, lead, and 
molybdenum were generally unavailable by 
state for confidentiality reasons, several western 
states are major producers of these minerals. 
The western states are also major producers of 
many locatable- type industrial minerals. Table 
3-32 shows the national ranking of the western 
states for many locatable-type minerals. It 
shows, for example, Alaska first in domestic 
mine production of zinc, Arizona first in copper 
and molybdenum, Montana first in platinum 
group metals and talc, Nevada first in gold and 
silver, and Wyoming first in bentonite. 

Appendix G contains maps of the United 
States showing the importance of the western 
states to metal mine production (see Figures G- 
1 through G-4). These maps also show that for 
nonmetallic minerals (industrial minerals) mine 
production across the United States is more 
evenly distributed than for metallic minerals. 



Trends in Mineral Production and 
Exploration 

This section describes trends since 1980 
and projections for future activity for the three 
main commodity groupings: precious metals, 
base metals, and industrial minerals. The 
projections are fairly general, given the 
diversity of mining on public lands: the wide 
variety of mining methods, commodities 
extracted, geographic scope, and inherent 
uncertainty of commodities markets. These 
projections are based on historic trends in 
mining and current trends in commodity prices, 
exploration, and technological changes. 

Precious Metals. Precious metals include 
gold, silver, and platinum group metals. As 
noted in Table 3-33, 88% of the $4 billion total 
value of precious metals mine production in the 
United States in 1998 was attributable to gold 
($3.4 billion). Silver accounted for 9% ($339 
million). And the platinum group metals (PGM) 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-32. Ranking of Western States by Mine Production of Mineral Commodities - 1998 1 


National Ranking 


State 


#1 


#2 


#3 


#4 


#5 


#6-#10 


Alaska 


Zinc 


Lead 
Silver 


Gold 








Arizona 


Copper 
Molybdenum 


Gemstones 




Silver 
Zeolites 


Pumice 




California 


Asbestos 

Boron 

Diatomite 

Rare-earth metals 


Feldspar 

Gold 

Magnesium 

Titanium 


Perlite 


Gemstones 
pumice 


Gypsum 


Silver (8) 
Talc (6) 


Colorado 




Molybdenum 






Lead 


Gemstones (8) 
Gold (6) 
Zinc (7) 


Idaho 


Antimony 
Garnet 




Lead 

Molybdenum 

Pumice 

Silver 






Feldspar (6) 
Gold (8) 


Montana 


Platinum 

Palladium 

Talc 




Bentonite 
Garnet 


Lead 


Copper 

Molybdenum 

Zinc 


Gemstones (10) 
Gold (6) 
Silver (6) 


Nevada 


Barite 

Gold 

Lithium 

Magnesite 

Mercury 

Silver 


Brucite 
Diatomite 


Gemstones 


Copper 


Gypsum 
Perlite 


Lime (7) 


New Mexico 


Perlite 
Zeolites 


Pumice 


Copper 

Mica 






Gypsum (10) 
Molybdenum (6) 


Oregon 


Pumice 




Diatomite 
Zeolites 


Perlite 


Gemstones 




Utah 


Beryllium 
concentrates 


Copper 

Magnesium 

metal 


Magnesium 

compounds 

Mercury 


Molybdenum 


Bentonite 
Gold 
Perlite 
Silver 




Washington 






Magnesium 
metal 


Diatomite 




Gold (9) 


Wyoming 


Bentonite 








Zeolites 




'Includes "locatable-type" minerals mined statewide regardless of surface ownership. Sources: USGS 1999a, b; 
Smith 1999. 



269 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-33. Precious Metals Value of Production 
1998 ($000) 


Commodity 


Value 


Percent 

of Total 

Value 


Gold 

Silver 

Platinum Metals Group 

Total 


$3,480,000 

3393,000 

136,000 

$3,955,000 


88% 

9% 

3% 

100% 


Source: Smith 1999. 



accounted for the other 3% ($136 million). Due 
to the overwhelming dominance of gold over 
other precious metals, the following analysis of 
trends in precious metals focuses on gold. 

Production. Gold production in both the 
United States and worldwide has increased 
dramatically since 1980. In 1980, a total of 
960,000 troy ounces was produced in the 
United States, accounting for 2.5% of 
worldwide production. By 1998, the United 
States produced a record 1 1 .8 million troy 
ounces, accounting for more than 15% of 
worldwide production. Preliminary estimates 
for 1999 show that production has declined to 
10.9 million troy ounces, but this is still higher 
than production in 1996 (see Figure 3-4). 

More than 96% of current domestic 
production comes from the western United 
States, especially Nevada, which accounts for 
75% of U.S. gold production. Four of the top 
five producing states are in the study area: 
Nevada, California, Alaska, and Utah, in that 
order. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 
that gold is currently produced at 120 lode 
mines, a dozen or more large placer mines, and 
many smaller placer mines. Most of these 
placer operations are in Alaska. Of the domestic 
gold produced, the 30 largest mines yielded 
92%, and 75 mines produced 98% of the total 
(Amey 1998). Of these top 30, a total of 27 are 
in the study area. 

The most significant rate of increase in 
production occurred between 1984 and 1990, 
when gold production increased by an average 
annual 29% (from 2 million to 9.3 million troy 



ounces annually). Between 1 992 and 1 996, 
production was steady between 10.2 and 10.6 
million troy ounces. The years 1997 and 1998 
showed record production of 11.6 and 11.8 
million troy ounces due to a significant amount 
of new capacity that had been in preparation 
during the previous 2 to 3 years before coming 
on-stream (Amey 1998). 

Generally, gold mine closures are keeping 
pace with new gold mine openings and 
expansions in the United States At the same 
time the average output per mine has increased, 
resulting in a trend to fewer but larger U.S. 
gold mines. Most of the larger companies are 
replacing their annual production with new 
reserves, but smaller companies are finding this 
task more difficult (USGS 1998). 

The United States is currently the world's 
second largest gold producer behind South 
Africa, which produced 19% of all gold in 1998 
(down from more than half of total world 
production in 1980). Other significant 
producers are Australia (13%) (which ranks 
close behind the United States), Canada and 
China (7% each), and Russia and Indonesia 
(4% each). 

The dramatic increase in gold production 
worldwide over the past 20 years is attributable 
to a variety of factors: 

• Technological changes in gold mining 
methods such as the refinement of heap 
leaching techniques and the extraction of 
gold from refractory ores. 

• Long-term sustained increases in gold prices 
following the end of government price and 
ownership controls in the 1970s. 

• Increased demand for gold. 

• Increased access to deposits outside the 
United States. 

• A large sustained increase in exploration for 
new gold discoveries in response to these 
changes. 

The worldwide gold reserve base has 
increased by 145%, from just over 1 billion 
troy ounces in 1980 to 2.3 billion troy ounces 
in 1998. The U.S. reserve base more than 



270 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Figure 3-4 

U.S. Gold Production 1980-1999 



(D 
CD 

O CO 

R ° 

O = 

>-^ 

o ** 



l£l 




Li^L 


.i^LL 


1 n 




^— '- 








^ 


I u 






i_L 


p 




J_L, 


o 




o 






D 




/I 




-'— '- 


4 




-^ 


o 




-^ 


0- 


LLL^ 




U^ 


1_L 


i_L, 



80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 

Year 

Source: Smith, 1998; USGS, various years(a). 



tripled over that period (from 60 million to 1 93 
million troy ounces). As a result, the United 
States' share of the worldwide base increased 
from 6% to almost 8%. 

Exploration. Exploration expenditures 
worldwide and in the United States continue to 
be dominated by gold. In 1998, 55% of all 
exploration expenditures for nonferrous metals 
were estimated to have been spent looking for 
gold (Amey 1998). 

Exploration in the United States peaked in 
the 1980s but is still considered strong. 
Domestic exploration (for all nonferrous metals) 
as a percent of worldwide exploration 
expenditures decreased between 1992 and 1998 
(from more than 21% to 8.6%), but spending on 
a total dollar basis for most of that period 
remained steady (Wilbum 1998; Mining 
Engineering 1999). According to preliminary 
estimates for exploration spending in 1999, 



spending in the United States increased to about 
10% of worldwide expenditures for nonferrous 
metals. On a total dollar basis, expenditures 
dropped to $216 million in 1999 from $243 
million in 1998 (Mining Engineering 1999). 
Much of the domestic exploration for gold is 
aimed at replacing annual production at existing 
operations with new reserves rather than 
focusing on new discoveries. 

In recent years the focus has shifted to other 
regions of the world, such as Latin America, 
Asia and the Pacific, and Africa. Many 
countries have revised their mining laws, are 
offering incentives for foreign investment, and 
in some cases have opened up areas previously 
closed to exploration. The transformation of 
centrally planned economies to market-based 
economies has also made deposits in these 
countries more attractive as investment 
opportunities (Amey 1997). 



271 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



In addition to the "pull" of other countries 
as exploration targets due to economic and 
political reforms, there is also the view that 
permitting and environmental requirements in 
the United States are increasing costs and 
permitting times and thus are "pushing" 
exploration out of the U.S. (Dobra 1997; Fraser 
Institute 1998; Wilburn 1998). 

Conversely, a recent study of the gold 
industry found that the U.S. is a relatively low- 
cost producer: "...[T]he world's largest 
producers other than the U.S., namely, South 
Africa and Australia, have the highest costs. 
U.S. producers, on the other hand, are the 
second lowest cost producers next to Brazilian 
producers, whose costs are very similar," 
(Dobra 1999). 

Additionally, internationally recognized 
environmental standards are increasingly being 
required to secure funding for mining projects 
regardless of location (White 1997). These 
requirements would tend to offset to some 
extent the potential cost advantage of fewer 
permitting and environmental requirements. 

Further, as noted in a recent study of the 
revival of the domestic copper industry in the 
1980s, for the metal mining industry to succeed 
in the current economic environment, firms 
must constantly pursue new technologies and 
productivity gains (Tilton and Landsberg 1997) 
irrespective of permitting and environmental 
requirements of the host country. This quest has 
created a highly competitive global mining 
industry. Thus, the net effect of these factors on 
United States production is difficult to 
ascertain. 

Prices. Gold prices play a significant role in 
the exploration and development of gold 
deposits. Between 1974-when the last of 
government price controls and restrictions on 
gold trading were abolished-and 1996 prices 
steadily and sometimes dramatically increased, 
peaking in 1980 at an average annual price of 
$613 (see Figure 3-5). From the late 1980s to 
1996 the average annual price fluctuated within 
a relatively close range of $340 to $390 per troy 
ounce. But since the latter part of 1996 the price 



has trended downward rather significantly, 
hovering in the range of $280 to $300 since 
then. 

The recent downward trend has been 
mainly attributed to the following: central bank 
sales; speculative selling; producer hedging; 
fears of future sales by central banks; and 
economic turmoil in Southeast Asia, Russia, 
and, more recently, Latin America. 

Global economic conditions are now 
showing signs of improvement, especially in 
Southeast Asia. The downward pressure on gold 
prices has occurred despite evidence of strong 
worldwide demand for gold, at least through 
1998 (Murray 1998). Demand in 1999 appears 
to have declined due to lower demand for 
jewelry although demand increased for gold in 
coins and electronics. 

Demand so far in 2000 appears to be strong 
(World Gold Council 2000). The near-term 
outlook is for an increased demand for 
fabricated gold and for the price to average 
about $280/oz (Gold Fields Mineral Services 
2000). But continued apprehension about global 
economic conditions combined with recent gold 
market conditions makes the longer term 
outlook highly uncertain for gold prices and the 
market. 

Projections. The gold market has a great 
deal of uncertainty, which has persisted since 
about 1996. Demand for gold has been strong 
in recent years (Gentry 1998) but not in all 
sectors. Demand for gold for jewelry 
fabrication, which accounts for about 75% of all 
gold demand, fell in 1999, and increased 
demand in other sectors did not completely 
compensate for that drop (Gold Fields Mineral 
Services 2000). Thus, overall worldwide 
fabrication fell about 1.4%. Improved 
international economic conditions are expected 
to contribute to an increase in demand of about 
3.6%, at least during 2000 (Gold Fields Mineral 
Services 2000). Contributing to this demand 
will be population growth around the world, 
increased standards of living in many 
developing countries, and generally improving 
international economic conditions. 



272 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Figure 3-5 

Average Gold Prices 1980-1999 




*"-x --"A 



: 



61 63 65 67 69 71 73 75 77 79 81 83 85 87 89 91 93 95 97 99 



Current Dollars 

Source: USGS various years (b) 



1 0-Year Average 



Annual 



Beyond 2000, the situation is less clear. 
U.S. and worldwide exploration expenditures 
are expected to continue at lower levels than in 
the past due to low commodity prices. As less 
gold is discovered and old gold mines are 
closed, a gap may be created between the 
world's future gold supply and its demand, 
thereby creating excess demand (Amey 1998). 
This in turn could cause the price of gold to 
increase. 

The globalization of mining opportunities 
has opened to exploration and development 
many areas that had previously been closed. 
Thus, worldwide supply of minerals such as 
gold are expected to increasingly originate from 
countries other than the United States. 
Nevertheless, interest in exploration in the 
western United States, especially Nevada, is 
expected to remain strong (Gentry 1998). The 
World Gold Council expects that future gold 



production will increase at a slower rate in the 
future than during the 1980s and 1990s, at 1.3% 
to 3% per year, in contrast to annual growth 
rates of over 4% for the past 17 years and 
growth rates in the 1 980s exceeding 6% (Krai 
1997). 

Given the recent trend in steady domestic 
gold production, the dramatic increase in 
production opportunities outside the United 
States, worldwide demand for gold, the 
anticipated rate of growth in supply, and high 
level of uncertainty of gold prices and other 
market conditions, annual domestic production 
is expected to remain steady or slightly decrease 
for the foreseeable future. Further, the western 
United States, especially Nevada, is expected to 
remain the dominant region for production. 
Most of the existing large mines are expected to 
continue operating as depleted reserves are 
replaced. But lower exploration expenditures in 



273 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



the U.S. and worldwide may result in fewer 
mines being development in the future. 

This scenario assumes that gold prices 
stabilize in the range observed over the recent 
past. An extended period of low gold prices, 
such as that experienced since 1 996, or prices 
that drop even lower for a sustained period, 
may reduce gold production in the future. 
Lower prices tend to hit exploration first— this 
has already occurred both in the U.S. and 
worldwide-as well as smaller, high-cost 
producers. Some mines may close earlier as 
higher graded, lower cost ores are extracted and 
are not replaced by new reserves. But most of 
the larger, newer, low-cost producers are 
expected to withstand current gold market 
conditions. Conversely, a sustained significant 
increase in price would spur more exploration 
for new ore bodies and encourage extraction of 
lower grade ores at existing mines, thereby 
extending the life of many of these mines. 

Up to 43% of total domestic production 
comes from public lands (including BLM and 
Forest Service lands). But a substantial portion 
of existing mines are awaiting patent approvals 
that would move them from public to private 
ownership. This patenting will decrease the 
portion of total domestic production from 
public lands in the foreseeable future. In the 
longer term, however, if public lands become 
permanently closed to patenting (a 
congressional moratorium exists on new patent 
applications), the portion of domestic gold 
production on public lands would likely begin 
to increase once again. 

Pending Plans of Operations for exploration 
or development have been factored into these 
projections. Most of the current pending Plans 
are for precious metals exploration or 
development, and most of these are for 
expanding existing operations. 

Base Metals. The base metals category 
includes a variety of minerals such as copper, 
lead, zinc, iron ore, molybdenum, and nickel. 
The base metals with the greatest production in 
the western United States are copper, lead, 
molybdenum, and zinc. As noted in Table 3-34, 
65% of the $5 billion total value of U.S. 
production of the major base metals in 1 998 



was attributed to copper ($3.2 billion). Zinc 
accounted for 16% ($819 million), lead 10% 
($480 million), and molybdenum 9% ($456 
million). Because of the dominance of copper 
over other base metals, the analysis of trends in 
base metals will focus on copper. The copper 
trends are meant to generally represent trends 
for the other base metals as well. 



Table 3-34. Base Metals Value of Production 


1998 ($000) 


Commodity 


Value 


Percent of 
Total Value 


Copper 


$3,220,000 


65% 


Lead 


480,000 


10% 


Molybdenum' 


456,000 


9% 


Zinc 


819,000 


16% 


Total 


$4,980,000 


100% 


'Figure for molybdenum is production value for 1996 


since values for later years have been withheld to 


avoid disclosing company proprietary data. 


Source: Smith 1999. 



Copper Production. Between 1980 and 
1 998 copper production in the United States 
increased by more than 60%, from 1.2 million 
to 1 .9 million metric tons annually (Figure 3-6). 
U.S. production accounted for 15% of 
worldwide production in 1998, about the same 
as its worldwide contribution in 1980 (and 
down from its 19% share in 1994). Domestic 
production, though increasing during the 1990s 
to record levels through 1997, decreased inl998 
by about 4% to its lowest level since 1995 due 
to overcapacity and lower copper prices. 
Preliminary estimates for 1 999 show continued 
decline in domestic mine production to about 
1.6 million metric tons (USGS 2000). 

Five western states accounted for virtually 
all (99.6%) domestic copper mine production in 
1998. In descending order these states are 
Arizona (67% of all domestic production), 
Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana. 
Although copper was extracted from 38 mines, 
15 mines accounted for 98% of all domestic 
production in 1998 (Edelstein 1998). In 1980, 
by contrast, 25 mines yielded 96% of all 
domestic production (USBM 1981). These 



274 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



statistics show that, like gold mines, copper 
mines tend to be decreasing in number but 
increasing in output. 

Copper is mined in about 50 countries. With 
15% of world production, the United States is 
the world's second largest mine producer behind 
Chile, which accounted for 30% of the 1998 
worldwide production. Other major producers 
include Indonesia, Canada, and Australia. In 
total, the top 10 countries account for about 
82% of worldwide production. 

World production continued to increase to 
record levels, to 12.2 million metric tons in 
1998. The bulk of increased production 
worldwide came from Chile, where mine 
production has increased by 85% since 1993 
(Edelstein 1998) and where U.S. companies 
continued to invest heavily to expand 
production and reduce costs. In the mid-1990s, 
most U.S. copper mining companies reported 
record profits from copper operations owing to 
high production levels, lowered operating costs, 
and record-high copper prices. But declining 
copper prices beginning in 1997 have caused a 



large decrease in the total value of production 
and the closure of several mines (Edelstein 
1998). 

The worldwide copper reserve base has 
increased by 29%, from 505 million metric tons 
in 1980 to 650 million metric tons in 1998. But 
the U.S. reserve base has remained unchanged 
since 1980 at about 90 million metric tons. 
Consequently, as a portion of the worldwide 
base, the U.S. share has declined from 18% to 
about 13%. Most of the increase in the reserve 
base is due to new deposits discovered in Latin 
America, especially Chile (USBM and USGS 
various years). 

Exploration. Preliminary data on 
exploration shows that exploration budgets for 
base metals in 1999 will make up about 37% of 
worldwide exploration expenditures, or $800 
million, as reported by the Metals Economics 
Group (Wilburn 2000). Though this is a higher 
percentage than reported in 1 997 and 1 998 
(27% and 33% respectively), on a total dollar 
basis, exploration expenditures are declining. 
Copper was the dominant target, comprising 



Figure 3-6 



U.S. Copper Production, 1980-1998 



<m 
c 



2500 



2000 



d> 1500 



C 

m 
<■">,> 

3 

,. 
: ■ 



1000 



500 






r 












_ 



1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 

Source: USGS various years (a) 



275 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



about 58% of all base metal expenditures 
(Wilburn 2000). The reduced level of 
exploration reflects lower prices and a 
continued oversupply of copper. Copper 
exploration in the United States is still centered 
in the West. 

Projections. Beginning about mid- 1997, 
new copper mining capacity coming online 
worldwide outstripped the growth in demand 
for copper that caused price declines and the 
closing of several large mines in the U.S. 
(mainly in Arizona and Nevada) and in other 
countries as well (Edelstein 2000; Silva 2000). 
There are indications that the demand-supply 
balance is improving, and this improvement 
should stabilize the industry for the near future. 
But conditions in the industry over the past few 
years and the closing of several U.S. operations 
are likely to result in little or no growth in 
copper mine capacity for the next few years. 

Currently only 1 % of domestic copper is 
mined on federal land, including land managed 
by BLM and other federal agencies, This is a 
much smaller percentage than is estimated for 
gold production on federal land (USD1 1993). 
This situation is also expected to continue 
because there is currently little exploration, and 
no Plans of Operations for copper are pending 
for public lands in Arizona, the dominant 
copper producing state (Kershaw 2000). New 
Mexico has only one pending Plan of 
Operations for copper mining, which is for 
expanding a mine (Dalness 2000). 

Industrial Minerals. The industrial 
minerals category includes a wide variety of 
minerals with a great diversity of end uses. This 
category includes mainly all the nonfuel 
minerals not included as precious or base 
metals. Industrial minerals can generally be 
broken into subcategories related to their end 
uses. Many minerals, however, fit into more 
than one subcategory. For example, the 
construction subcategory includes minerals 
such as crushed stone, sand and gravel, pumice, 
gypsum, limestone, and some clays. Other 
subcategories include the following: 



• Chemical (e.g. salt, lithium, iodine, bromine, 
strontium, and lime). 

• Agricultural (e.g. potash, phosphate rock, 
sulphur). 

• Abrasives (e.g. pumice, silica sand). 

• Fillers and extenders (e.g. talc, mica, kaolin 
clay, graphite). 

• A miscellaneous subcategory (including some 
high-value minerals such as titanium and rare 
earths). 

Not all industrial minerals are locatable if 
found on public land. Examples of locatable 
industrial minerals include barite, bentonite, 
diatomite, feldspar, gemstones, gypsum, 
magnesium compounds, perlite, pumice, silica 
stone, talc, and vermiculite. Many other 
industrial minerals are considered either 
leasable or saleable: sand and gravel, common 
clays, crushed stone, some limestones, 
phosphate, potash, sodium (including soda ash), 
and sulfur. Leasable and saleable minerals are 
not locatable and are not included in this 
analysis or rulemaking. 

The estimated value of locatable-type 
industrial mineral mine production attributable 
to the EIS study area was $2.4 billion in 1998. 
This estimate was derived from Table 3-30, 
which appears earlier in this chapter. Table 3-30 
shows that "Other Metals and Industrials" 
totaled $4.2 billion in mine production value. 
But $1.8 billion of that amount can be 
attributed to base metals such as lead, 
molybdenum, and zinc. The remaining $2.4 
billion can be attributed mainly to industrial 
minerals. 

The large number of commodities in the 
industrial minerals category makes it difficult to 
assess the general trends in exploration and 
production for each mineral. It is also difficult 
to assess the general trends for the category of 
industrial minerals as a whole given the wide 
variety of end uses. 

Nevertheless, an increase is expected in 
exploration and development of industrial 
minerals on western public lands in the 
foreseeable future for several reasons. First, the 



276 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



general overall growth in the domestic economy 
(and internationally) is fueling an increased 
demand for most of the end uses to which 
industrials are put. Second, many deposits of 
industrials previously on public land have 
already been transferred to private ownership 
through the palenting process. Therefore, future 
operations are expected to increasingly originate 
from public lands, assuming continuation of the 
congressional moratorium on new patenting. 
And third, generally speaking, many industrials 
are mined relatively close to where increases in 
economic activity and population growth are 
greatest, and many western states are 
experiencing rapid economic and population 
growth. 

According to a 1993 Department of the 
Interior study, industrial minerals with more 
than 10% of total domestic production from 
federal lands (including federal lands not 
managed by BLM) include diatomite 53%, 
fullers earth 11%, gemstones 50%, pumice 14%, 
silica stone 25'?,, and talc 42% (USDI 1993). 

Currently several Plans of Operations are 
pending for industrial minerals, mainly for 



gypsum, limestone, silica sand, and cinder 
mines. 

Strategic and Critical Materials. Strategic 
and critical minerals are those in which the 
United States is deficient or domestic sources 
are insufficiently developed to supply the 
military, industrial, and essential civilian needs 
of the United States for national defense. To 
reduce dependence on foreign sources in times 
of national emergency, Congress established the 
National Defense Stockpile (NDS) of strategic 
and critical minerals. Many of the minerals on 
the strategic and critical list are locatable-type 
minerals. Inventory of only a few of the 
minerals on the list, however, is lower than 
National Defense Stockpile goals, for example, 
cobalt, graphite, some gemstones, mica, and 
platinum group metals. 

In recent years, the Defense National 
Stockpile Center, which operates as an 
international commodity broker of strategic and 
critical minerals for the U.S. Government, has 
been liquidating much of (he stockpile, and the 
goals for maintaining inventory for many 
minerals have been eliminated, although the list 



Figure 3-7 

National Defense Stockpile 
Sales and Acquisitions, 1991-1999 



600 
500 



w 400 

o 

= 300 



m 200 
100 





$513 



$322 



$125 



$139 



$150 



!!83 



$13 



$19 



$391 



$446 



S1 



$0 



91 92 93 94 95 96 97 

I I Sales \Z3 Acquisitions 

Source: U.S. Department of Defense, various years. 



98 99 



277 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



remains (U.S. Department of Defense, Defense 
Logistics Agency 1997; Mory 1998). Figure 3-7 
shows the level of annual sales from and 
acquisitions to the stockpile. 

Contribution of Mining to the 
Regional and National Economy 

The mining industry for locatable-type 
minerals is an important contributor to the 
economies of the western states, to the national 
economy, and especially to some counties in the 
study area with significant mining. The 
contribution to these economies can be 
measured in several ways: 

• Value of mineral production (see previous 
section). 

• Contribution to each state's gross state 
product and to national gross domestic 
product. 

• Level of employment and personal income 
directly attributable to the mining industry. 

• Number of mines. 

• The multiplier effects, which estimate the 
indirect and induced economic effects of 
mining in addition to direct effects. 

• Role of mining in the economies of mineral - 
rich rural communities. 

The following section describes the 
economic contribution of locatable mine 
production overall for the study area (except 
where noted), not merely the portion from 
public lands. Locatable minerals production on 
public lands contributes an estimated 10% of 
the study area's total value of mine production 
overall, but this percentage varies by 
commodity. 

Mining for metals and nonmetallic minerals 
in the study area collectively contributed $7.5 
billion to the gross state product (GSP) in 1997, 
the latest year for which GSP data are available 
(BEA 1999). GSP is a state's sum of each of its 
industries' gross output less intermediate goods 
and services purchased from other industries or 
imported, also referred to as "value added." 
This $7.5 billion represents 0.5% of the study 
area's combined GSP of $1.62 trillion. 



More significantly, however, the study area 
contributed 44% of the Nation's total gross 
domestic product (GDP) for the metals and 
nonmetallic minerals mining sectors combined. 
For the metals-mining sector alone, the study 
area contributed 74% of the Nation's total GDP 
(see Table G-l in Appendix G). Gross domestic 
product is the sum of the GSPs for the 50 states. 

Trends in mining's contribution to GSP 
since 1982 are uneven among the western 
states. (Note: Due to new indexing techniques 
used for estimating inflation-adjusted changes 
in gross domestic product and gross state 
product, 1982 is a more suitable base year for 
this trend analysis than 1980, which is the base 
year used for other statistics in this section.) For 
metals, most states increased their contributions 
to GSP between 1982 and 1997, as measured in 
1992 chained dollars. But the contributions of 
two states-Colorado and Wyoming-declined. 

Of the states showing increases, the change 
varied from a 33% increase in contribution to 
GSP in New Mexico to a 5,100% increase in 
Alaska. But on a total dollar basis, the largest 
increase in contribution to a state's GSP came 
in Nevada, where metal mining increased by 
$1.4 billion, from $199 million to $1.6 billion. 

For nonmetals all states showed increases 
in the contribution to each state's GSP. 
Increases ranged from 5% in Nevada to 233% 
in Ai'izona. On a total dollar basis, California 
showed the largest increase, from $378 million 
in 1982 to $947 million in 1997, a $569 million 
increase. It is difficult to tell how much of the 
nonmetals category is attributed to locatable- 
type minerals. The nonmetal category in GSP 
includes many minerals, such as sand and 
gravel and many other construction-type 
minerals, that are not locatable and are not 
covered by this rulemaking. Many of these 
minerals are mined near construction sites. 
Because the West has been experiencing record 
population growth, much of the increase can be 
attributed to these construction minerals. 

On the whole, the western states showed a 
1 72% increase in metal and nonmetallic 
mining's contribution to GSP, from $2.8 billion 
in 1982 to just over $7.5 billion in 1997, as 
measured in 1992 chained dollars. This increase 



278 



Chapter 3 - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



is the combined result of a 212% increase in 
metals and a 127% increase in nonmetals. 
During the same period, the combined GSP of 
the region increased by 69% overall. The net 
result is that the contribution of metals and 
nonmetals in the western states, as a portion of 
the region's total GSP, increased from 0.3% in 
1982 to 0.5% in 1997. 

Another measure of the contribution of 
locatable-type mining is in personal income and 
employment. This information is collected in 
detail by state and reported nationally by the 
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of 
Economic Analysis (BE A). The study area's 
direct contribution of the metals and 
nonmetallic minerals mining industries was $3.3 
billion in personal income (Table G-2 in 
Appendix G) and 67,000 jobs in 1998, the latest 
year for which data are available. This amount 
represents about 2% of the study area's total 
personal income and employment, which is 
proportionately greater than these sectors' 
contribution to area GSP. Total personal income 
nationally for metals and nonmetal mining 
combined was $8.2 billion in 1998. The study 
area's contribution of $3.3 billion represents 
40% of these sectors nationally. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also 
reports employment levels and trends. BLS 
figures do not match BEA figures due to 
differences in data collection. Although BEA 
and BLS employment figures don't match in 
absolute numbers, these two data sets do show 
similar trends for levels of mining employment 
and mining's share of total employment, both at 
the state and national level. 

During the 1 9-year period from 1 980 
through 1998, BLS data show that metal mining 
employment in the study area declined by 44 %, 
from 65,000 to 36,000 jobs. This amount tracks 
the national trend, which showed a 51% decline 
over the same period. Employment in 
nonmetallics declined by 17% in the study area, 
compared to an 11% decline nationwide. At the 
same time, overall employment in the study 
area increased by 54% (Bell 2000). This decline 
shows that mining employment has become a 
smaller portion of total employment over the 
past 19 years, even while mine production has 



increased significantly over that period (see 
Table G-3 in Appendix G). 

There are exceptions to these trends. The 
most obvious counter-trend has occurred in 
Nevada, where metal mining employment 
increased by 216% from 3,600 jobs in 1980 to 
1 1,500 by 1998. Nevada currently contributes 
nearly a third of all metal mine employment in 
the study area, virtually all related to gold 
mining. (Nevada and Arizona combined 
contribute 61% of all metal mining 
employment. Arizona's employment is 
attributed mostly to copper mining.) 

Alaska also shows a significant increase of 
294% in metal mining employment, but the 
state overall contributes only 3% of all current 
metal mining employment in the study area. In 
nonmetallic mineral production, Arizona, 
Colorado, and Washington showed significant 
increases (60%, 110%, and 47% respectively). 
Many nonmetallic minerals are not considered 
locatable minerals on public lands. 

While overall trends in employment and 
income in the metal and nonmetallic mineral 
mining industries show declines, these trends 
alone would tend to understate the importance 
of these sectors to the economies of the western 
states and the Nation as a whole. These 
employment and personal income figures 
represent the direct impact the metal and 
nonmetallic mining sectors have on the regional 
and national economies. 

In addition to direct employment and 
income effects, these industries purchase capital 
equipment for mine development, buy operating 
supplies and business services, and hire workers 
who in turn spend their incomes on goods and 
services. These added spending levels create a 
multiplier effect, which accounts for indirect 
and induced effects as well as direct effects. The 
sum of direct, indirect, and induced effects is 
the multiplier effect, or total economic impact. 

The IMPLAN input-output modeling 
system was used to estimate the total economic 
impact of locatable mineral production on 
public lands in the study area for 1998 mine 
production. (These impacts are based on the 
10% of the total value of mine production 
estimated to originate from federal lands.) The 



279 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



$1.7 billion in production value is estimated to 
have contributed the following: 

• $3.1 billion dollars in total industry output. 

• $ 1 .4 billion in total income (of which $766 
million is employee compensation). 

• $1 .6 billion in value-added. 

• 21,310 jobs overall to the study area (see 
Table 3-35). 

The greatest impact is from mining in 
Nevada, where 59% of all total industry output 
and half of all jobs are located. Nevada's 
dominance is due to its large amount of gold 
produced from federal land. 

Total industry output measures the total 
economic impact of purchases (e.g. capital 
equipment purchases and operating 
expenditures) within the study area by the 
mining industry to mine locatable minerals in 
1998. 

Total income impacts translate the impact 
of changes in expenditures by the mining 
industry into changes in income. Income 
includes employee compensation, proprietary 
income, and other property income. Employee 



compensation, as a subset of total income, 
represents total worker income generated by 
mining industry expenditures. 

Employment impacts represent the total 
number of jobs generated by final demand 
expenditures by the mining industry in the 
study area, as measured by both full- and part- 
time jobs. Appendix G, Methodology for 
Estimating Contribution of "Locatable-Type" 
Mineral Production on the Economies of the 12 
Western States, explains how these estimates 
were derived using the IMPLAN input-output 
model. 

A variety of other recently completed 
studies have measured the economic impact of 
the mining industry. One study, The U.S. Gold 
Industry 1998, found that in 1997 gold and 
silver production nationwide contributed $7.7 
billion in output, $2.3 billion in earnings, and 
nearly 84,000 jobs (Dobra 1999). The study 
notes that most of this impact is due to mine 
production from the western states. 

This study and the IMPLAN impacts 
mentioned above use different models and thus 
produce different results. The Dobra study 
focuses on gold and silver and includes all land 



Table 3-35. Estimated Regional Impacts from Production of Locatable Minerals on Public Lands 1998 ($000) 




Personal Income 




State 


Total Industry 


Total 


Employee 


Value Added 


Employment 




Output 




Compensation 




(Jobs) 


Alaska 


$144,000 


$65,800 


$30,500 


$83,800 


970 


Arizona 


40,600 


20,500 


12,200 


24,100 


320 


California 


142,000 


76,500 


46,500 


83,800 


1,020 


Colorado 


57,600 


28,400 


16,300 


33,800 


350 


Idaho 


69,400 


35,300 


20,700 


41,800 


680 


Montana 


61,700 


29,300 


18,200 


37,600 


410 


Nevada 


1,810,000 


830,000 


466,000 


908,000 


10,740 


New Mexico 


32,000 


12,000 


5,500 


16,600 


220 


Oregon 


1,250 


500 


900 


1,000 


10 


Utah 


49,200 


20,900 


11,100 


25,700 


360 


Washington 


19,900 


11,900 


7,600 


13,300 


130 


Wyoming 


3,500 


1,800 


900 


2,500 


30 


12-StateArea 


$3,080,000 


$1,390,000 


$766,000 


$1,590,000 


21,310 


Note: These estimate 


ss include only production estimated to originate from fed 


eral lands. Figures 


rounded to three 


significant digits. Sol 


rce: IMPLAN Input-Output Modeling System (see Appen 


dixG). 





280 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



ownership types. The IMPLAN analysis in this 
EIS includes most locatable minerals and only 
the portion estimated to be mined from public 
lands. 

A similarity of these two results is that 
measuring the multiplier effect state by state 
misses the economic impact that a mining 
company makes in states outside the area 
modeled, a limitation noted in The U.S. Gold 
Industry 1996 (Dobra 1997). For example, 
capital equipment purchases by a mining 
company in Nevada from a firm in Illinois 
would not show up as an injection into the 
Illinois economy unless Illinois were part of the 
study area modeled. Consequently, some 
economic contributions from mining investment 
are understated at the national level. This 
understatement is not unique to mining impacts, 
however. Assessing the economic impact of one 
sector within a state on that state's economy is 
subject to this limitation. 

Another study, published by the National 
Mining Association, estimated the economic 
impact of the solid-minerals mining industry 
(Learning 1997). This study, which includes 
minerals such as coal and many nonlocatable 
types, estimated that the western states 
generated $115 billion and 1.1 million jobs in 
1995, or 37% of the total U.S. impact of solid- 
mineral mining of $524 billion and 22% of the 
estimated 5 million total jobs. The data and 
methodology used in this study differ 
substantially from the multiplier analyses 
described previously. The figures from the two 
studies cannot be compared, but the Learning 
(1997) study provides a useful comparison of 
the western mining industry in relation to the 
national industry. 

Mining is also important to many rural 
communities and counties in ways that are not 
captured by looking strictly at its contribution to 
the state or regional economy. Many western 
counties have significant amounts of locatable 
mining. This mining contributes a 
disproportionate share of local employment and 
income in relation to the industry's contribution 
statewide. 

One way to measure this contribution is by 
using a "location quotient." A location quotient 



is simply a ratio of a county's percent 
employment in a particular industry to the 
statewide percent employment in that industry 
(USFS and BLM 1998). A location quotient 
greater than 1 shows that the county is 
specialized in that industry. The greater the 
quotient exceeds 1 , the greater the degree of 
specialization. 

Using standard Bureau of Economic 
Analysis (BEA) employment data, one can 
determine location quotients only for the mining 
sector as a whole because employment data is 
not reported in greater detail as, for example, 
for metal mining. But estimating location 
quotients using BEA personal income data 
rather than employment data does allow for 
greater industry detail. For this reason, BEA 
personal income data is used in this analysis 
rather than employment data to show why the 
level of specialization in metal and nonmetallic 
mining for counties in the study area can be an 
important issue. 

The area encompassing the Carlin Trend in 
Nevada gives a good example of how important 
mining can be to local economies. Mining in the 
Carlin Trend area most immediately affects 
Elko and Eureka counties. In this area most of 
the metal mines are in Eureka County, but most 
mine employees live in Elko County. (Other 
mines in these two counties but not on the 
Carlin Trend are also included in the analysis.) 

In 1998 metal mining contributed $324 
million personal income to the area, about 29% 
of the area's total personal income of $ 1 . 1 
billion. In contrast, metal mining provided 1.4% 
of total personal income statewide ($705 million 
of the state's total personal income of $50.9 
billion). The location quotient for employment 
in the Elko-Eureka counties area, then, is 21 
(29% divided by 1.4%), showing a high degree 
of mining specialization for the area. 

Further evidence of the importance of 
mining to this area (and other western rural 
areas whose mining employment has grown) is 
the rate of growth since 1980. In 1980 personal 
income for mining overall (data was unavailable 
for metal mining) represented 10% of all 
income for the two-county area. With mining 
contributing 1 .8% to statewide employment 



281 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



during that time, Elko and Eureka counties had 
a combined location quotient of 5.7 in 1980. So 
at a time when the statewide and westwide 
economies have been growing more diversified, 
the Elko-Eureka counties area has become more 
dependent on mining. 

BLM recognizes that other counties in the 
western U.S., not just the Elko-Eureka counties 
area, would also have location quotients much 
greater than 1, showing a high degree of 
specialization in mining. Also, counties not 
currently specialized in mining could become 
so in the future if mines were to be developed 
there. The Elko-Eureka counties example is 
presented simply to show how location 
quotients can be used. 

Description of Mining Operations 

The wide variety of mining and milling 
methods depends on the type of mineral mined 
and physical properties of the deposit. 
Representing all of these variations in one 
programmatic study is not practical. Appendix 
E describes seven "typical" operations for 
exploration and placer, open pit, underground, 
and strip mining. These descriptions are not 
meant to represent an entire industry using a 
particular method but instead are meant to 
represent "typical" operations that could 
reasonably be expected on public lands. Also, 
exploration, placer, open pit, and strip 
operations are the most common types of 
mining for locatable minerals on public lands. 

These models describe the mining method, 
mineral deposit, size of operation, mine life, 
and other characteristics. The purpose of the 
models is to further describe how operations 
might be affected and the costs they might 
result from the proposed regulation changes and 
alternatives. 

Use and Nonuse Values 

In addition to economic activity of public 
lands mining, the value of nonmining 



environmental resources, amenities, and uses is 
also important. The types of resources and 
amenities that could be considered in an 
economic impact analysis of mining regulations 
could be extensive. For example, impacts to the 
following all have economic implications: fish 
and wildlife populations, habitat, water quantity 
and quality, recreation, scenic quality, 
endangered species, ecosystem functions, 
biodiversity, and air quality. 

Most of these resources have more than one 
type of value, generally called "use" and 
"nonuse" values. Use value refers generally to 
consumption value, for example, the economic 
value (e.g. expenses) of hunting elk or hiking in 
a wilderness area. Nonuse value is independent 
of use. Nonuse values might consist of the 
value one may place on preserving a population 
of endangered species or on preserving a scenic 
view for future generations (Freeman 1993). 

Use values are generally observed through 
the activities of markets where prices are set for 
goods and services. Nonuse values can be 
defined "... as an individual's willingness to pay 
to preserve or maintain a resource..." beyond 
what he has already paid for that resource in the 
market (Freeman 1993). For environmental 
resources and amenities, markets in many cases 
do not exist or are not well defined. 
Consequently, use and nonuse values are 
difficult to determine. 

Wildlife-related recreation serves as one 
good example of the value of environmental 
resources and amenities. A recent survey by the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 
expenditures for hunting, fishing, and wildlife 
viewing in 1996 totaled nearly $9 billion in the 
study area (FWS and Bureau of the Census 
1997). Expenditures include lodging, 
transportation, and eating expenses; purchases 
of hunting and fishing equipment; binoculars; 
and a wide variety of other expenses. 
Expenditures by state are listed in Table 3-36. 



282 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



Table 3-36. Expenditures for Wildlife-Related 
Recreation in Study Area 1996 ($000) 


Alaska 


$781 ,000 


Arizona 


1,029,000 


California 


2,397,000 


Colorado 


792,000 


Idaho 


146,000 


Montana 


219,000 


Nevada 


263,000 


New Mexico 


429,000 


Oregon 


693,000 


Utah 


237,000 


Washington 


1,661,000 


Wyoming 


235,000 


TOTAL 


$8,882,000 


Note: These values include all lands within the states 
in the study area and are not intended to represent 
values only for BLM-administered lands. 
Source: FWS and Bureau of the Census 1997. 



These recreation expenditures are one 
example of use value for fish and wildlife. 
Other use values that should be considered for 
fish and wildlife include commercial production 
such as commercial fisheries, and subsistence 
value-the value to American Indians of fish and 
wildlife for noncommerical uses (Flather and 
Hoekstra 1989; BLM 1988b). 

Nonuse values, which are independent of 
expenditures, take various forms: 

• Option value-the value a person places on a 
resource to preserve it for possible future use. 

• Existence value-the value a resource has even 
though the person will never use it. 

• Bequest value-the value a person places on a 
resource to preserve it for future generations. 

The sum of use value and all nonuse values 
for a particular resource is that resource's total 
value (Freeman 1993). 

Recognizing both use and nonuse values for 
environmental resources is important. But 
quantifying these values for all the nonmining 
resources in this E1S would be difficult at best 
for several reasons: 



• Data for many resources either do not exist or 
exist only for site-specific areas. 

• The number of resources and amenities to 
consider is large. 

• The study area is large. 

• "Markets" do not exist for many of these 
resources, and their values are virtually 
impossible to determine (as, for example, a 
plant or insect that may have no apparent 
current value, but for which a valuable use 
may be discovered in the future). 

But the EIS does consider the impacts of 
the regulations and alternatives to 
environmental conditions for a wide variety of 
resources. In that sense, this EIS does portray 
the tradeoffs between mineral activity and 
environmental conditions across the 
alternatives. 

Environmental 
Consequences 

Introduction 

Appendix E details the analysis used to 
estimate changes in overall mining activity for 
each of the alternatives. Additionally, it provides 
mine cost models detailing how each of the five 
alternatives might affect the cost structures and 
requirements for seven typical mining 
operations. These scenarios are hypothetical and 
are given for descriptive purposes only. They 
are not meant to portray any particular mining 
operation or any specific state's permitting 
process. They should be viewed as simply 
illustrative of changes a mining operation might 
experience under these alternatives. 

Alternative 1: No Action 

The No Action Alternative is not expected 
to have any overall effects on trends in mineral 
exploration and development as described in the 
previous section. Over the long term, 
exploration for and development of precious 
metals, particularly gold, are expected either to 
continue at levels of the recent past or to 
slightly decrease. This projection reflects the 
following: 



283 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



• Recent trend in steady domestic gold 
production. 

• Dramatic increase in production opportunities 
outside the United States. 

• Worldwide demand for gold. 

• Anticipated rate of growth in supply. 

• High level of uncertainty of gold prices and 
other market conditions. 

This projection assumes that the price of 
gold stabilizes in the range observed over the 
recent past. 

But the current gold market is characterized 
by low prices (which have persisted for about 2 
years) relative to the past 20 years, coupled 
with lower than expected demand from 
Southeast Asia due to that region's economic 
problems. Consequently, the short-term outlook 
for gold production remains uncertain. 

For base metals, particularly copper, there 
is likely to be little or no growth in mine 
capacity for the next few years. For production 
of industrial minerals, the western United States 
will likely see an increase in activity overall on 
all types of land ownerships including public 
lands. The overall projections in production of 
precious, base, and industrial minerals are based 
on trends in those commodity markets and do 
not necessarily coincide with the expected 
number of future Notices and Plans of 
Operations. 

Alternative 2: State Management 

Overall and over the long term, mineral 
activity could increase up to 5% from current 
levels across the study area after the State 
Management Alternative is fully implemented. 
Changes in performance standards and 
environmental review for some states would be 
the primary drivers of increased activity for 
most types of small operations (e.g. exploration, 
placer, open pit, and underground) as well as 
for large underground and for most industrial 
mineral mining. 

But because states would have discretion on 
when and how to apply performance standards, 
it would be difficult to specifically describe the 
impacts from exercising this discretion. For 



larger operations (especially exploration, placer, 
and open pit) changes in administrative 
requirements and changes in performance 
standards would be more evenly split in their 
impacts on operations. 

Under Alternative 2 BLM would neither 
review nor approve any specific project because 
the states would regulate mineral activities on 
BLM-administered lands. Administrative 
elements likely to have the greatest effect are 
the content and processing requirements for 
Notices and Plans of Operations and the 5-acre 
threshold for Plans of Operations, since BLM 
would no longer require Notices and Plans. 
Time delays due to preparing EISs would be 
reduced or eliminated in most states. But 
California, Montana, and Washington have state 
laws similar to the federal National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), under which 
EISs would still be prepared. In these three 
states there would likely be little time 
advantage to implementing this alternative. 

Assuming a 5% increase in mining, the 
value of mine production of locatable minerals 
would increase up to an estimated $85 million 
across the study area. This level of increased 
production would contribute up to 1 ,070 more 
jobs to the region, $154 million more in total 
industry output, $70 million more in total 
personal income (of which $38 million would 
be employee compensation), and $79 million 
more in value-added. 

Table 3-37 shows the regional economic 
impacts by state and for the study area overall. 
For the study area's total current value-added as 
measured by gross state product (GSP), this 
amount represents a 1% increase in the metals 
and nonmetallic sectors. Most states would 
likely see increased levels of activity on public 
lands. But on the basis of the current level of 
production, Nevada is estimated to produce the 
largest increase ($90 million in industry output), 
more than half the gain for the study area as a 
whole. 

These economic impacts assume an 
increase of up to 5% in activity overall. States, 
such as California, Montana, and Washington, 
that have National Environmental Policy Act- 
type review provisions might not realize an 



284 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



increase because there would likely be no time 
advantage for this alternative. Also, some states 
have environmental protection regulations 
similar enough to the 3809 regulations that 
mining might not realize significant cost 
reductions. 

The estimated increase in overall production 
would result from a variety of responses by the 
mining industry, holding constant other factors 
(e.g. technology, commodity prices, and 
political and economic conditions for mining in 
other countries). Some deposits considered to be 
subeconomic might under the State 
Management Alternative be considered 
economically feasible with a higher likelihood 
for development, either as extensions of existing 
mines or as new mines. Or more new mines 
might come on-line due to increased exploration 
or lower costs for obtaining permits. 

Commodity prices would not be likely to 
change in response to a 5% overall increase in 
production because prices for most mineral 
commodities are determined on world markets 
and individual production decisions do not 
affect prices. For commodities whose prices are 
not determined on world markets (such as some 
of the industrial minerals), it is assumed that the 
prices are established on local markets and 
increases in production from public lands would 
not be sufficient to affect these prices. 

Rural communities might or might not be 
affected, depending on a variety of factors: the 
level of current local mining; a community's 
degree of dependency or "specialization" in 
mining subject to the 3809 regulations; and the 
size of the community, its isolation, and other 
factors. Except in Nevada, small rural 
communities in most states are expected to 
experience only a small increase in number of 
jobs and output relative to overall employment 
and output levels. Increases might be due to 
expanding existing operations or starting new 
operations. Small expansions or small new 
mines might little affect communities whose 
population and labor force are already in place 
to fill new jobs. Smaller, more-isolated 
communities experiencing a new mine might 
suffer "growing pains" and new demands on 



local services from a large influx of new 
workers and their families. 

In Nevada, impacts to rural communities 
might be greater than in other states due to the 
greater estimated increase in activity (up to 550 
jobs and $90 million in industry output). But 
again, the impact to any particular community 
in the state would depend on whether the impact 
is due to the expansion of existing operations or 
to entirely new operations. Many of the more 
established communities (e.g. Elko/Eureka 
Counties, Humboldt County) might be better 
equipped to handle an influx of new jobs of this 
magnitude because they have had more 
experience with mining-induced growth over 
the past 20 years. Nevertheless, significant 
impacts might result. 

The estimates of impacts assume full 
implementation of the alternative and no 
significant changes in current state 
requirements. Any impacts at the community 
level would not likely occur in the short term 
since new mining operations and expansions 
would take some time to come online. 

Alternative 3: Proposed Action 

Under the Proposed Action, mining activity 
in the study area could decrease between 5% 
and 30% from current levels after full 
implementation of this alternative, and 
assuming current trends in mining continue for 
the foreseeable future. The degree of impact 
would vary by state depending mainly on the 
dominant types of mining and/or commodities 
mined in each state. For example, in states with 
relatively little metal mining (Oregon, 
Washington, and Wyoming), the estimated 
decrease in value of production would be lower 
(-5% to -15% in Oregon and Wyoming; -5% to 
-20% in Washington) than for states with 
relatively greater amounts of metal mining (- 
10% to -30% in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, 
Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah; -10% to -20% 
in Alaska; and -10% to -25% in California). 

For most types of smaller exploration and 
mining operations (i.e. less than 5 acres), the 
main components of the proposed regulations 
affecting mining would be new administrative 



285 






Table 3-37. Alternative 2 (State Management) Estimated Total Regional EconomicActivity from Production of Locatable Minerals on Federal Lands ($000) 


State 


Value of Production 


Total Industry Output 


Personal Income 


Value Added 


Number of Jobs 












Total 


Employee 










Level of Impact 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 




Compensation 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Alaska 


$118,000 


$124,000 


$144,000 


$151,000 


$65,900 


$69,200 


$30,500 


$32,000 


$83,800 


$88,000 


970 


1,020 


Arizona 


49,900 


52,300 


40,600 


42,600 


20,500 


21 ,500 


1 2,200 


12,800 


24,100 


25,300 


320 


340 


California 


97,100 


102,000 


142,000 


150,000 


76,500 


80,300 


46,500 


48,800 


83,800 


88,000 


1,020 


1,070 


Colorado 


40,100 


42,000 


57,600 


60,500 


28,400 


29,800 


16,300 


17,100 


33,800 


35,500 


350 


370 


Idaho 


55,300 


58,100 


69,400 


72,900 


35,300 


37,100 


20,700 


21,700 


41 ,800 


43,900 


680 


710 


Montana 


45,900 


48,200 


61,700 


64,800 


29,300 


30,800 


18,200 


19,100 


37,600 


39,500 


410 


430 


Nevada 


1,170,000 


1,230,000 


1,810,000 


1,900,000 


830,000 


871 ,000 


466,000 


490,000 


908,000 


953,000 


10,740 


11,280 


New Mexico 


25,600 


26,900 


32,000 


33,600 


12,000 


12,600 


5,500 


5,780 


16,600 


17,400 


220 


230 


Oregon 


2,010 


2,110 


1,250 


1,310 


500 


525 


900 


945 


1,000 


1,050 


10 


11 


Utah 


70,300 


73,900 


49,200 


51 ,700 


20,900 


21 ,900 


11,100 


11,700 


25,700 


27,000 


360 


380 


Washington 


18,300 


1 9,300 


19,900 


20,900 


11,900 


12,500 


7,600 


7,980 


13,300 


14,000 


130 


140 


Wyoming 


5,240 


5,510 


3,500 


3,680 


1,800 


1,890 


900 


945 


2,500 


2,630 


30 


30 


Study-Area Total 


$1 ,700,000 


$1,780,000 


$3,080,000 


$3,230,000 


$1,390,000 


$1,460,000 


$766,000 


$804,000 


$1,590,000 


$1,670,000 


21,310 


22,380 


Estimated Change in Regional Economic Activity from Current Conditions ($000) 


State 


Value of P 


roduction 


Total Industry Output 


Personal Income 


Value Added 


Number of Jobs 












Total 


Employee 










Level of Impact 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 




Compensation 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Alaska 


$0 


$5,910 


$0 


$7,190 


$0 


$3,300 


$0 


$1,530 


$0 


$4,190 





50 


Arizona 





2,490 





2,030 





1,030 





610 





1,210 





16 


California 





4,850 





7,120 





3,830 





2,330 





4,190 





50 


Colorado 





2,000 





2,880 





1,420 





815 





1,690 





18 


Idaho 





2,770 





3,470 





1,770 





1,040 





2,090 





30 


Montana 





2,300 





3,090 





1,470 





910 





1,880 





21 


Nevada 





58,500 





90,400 





41 ,500 





23,300 





45,400 





540 


New Mexico 





1,280 





1,600 





600 





275 





830 





11 


Oregon 





101 





63 





25 





45 





50 





1 


Utah 





3,520 





2,460 





1,050 





555 





1,290 





18 


Washington 





917 





995 





595 





380 





665 





7 


Wyoming 





262 





175 





90 





45 





125 





2 


Study-Area Total 


$0 


$84,900 


$0 


$154,000 


$0 


$69,500 


$0 


$38,300 


$0 


$79,400 





1,070 


Notes: Figures roi 


nded to three s 


ignificant digits. 


Employment 


figures roundc 


id to nearest 50, except 


igures under 25. Source: IMPLAN Input-Output Modeling System. 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



requirements designed to increase resource 
protection. For example, all mining operations, 
regardless of mining method used, that now 
have to file only Notices would under the 
Proposed Action be required to submit Plans of 
Operations. 

Exploration disturbing less than 5 acres 
would also be required to file Plans of 
Operations under certain circumstances, such as 
if located in special status areas. This 
requirement would increase the workload, time, 
and cost of obtaining approval for mining and 
exploration. But the degree to which workload, 
time, and cost would increase would depend on 
the type of operation and the reason a Plan 
would be required instead of a Notice. 

In addition, new filing requirements for 
Plans of Operations, such as for more data, 
would increase costs for data collection and 
possibly take more time than now is the case. 
Longer permitting times would also be more 
likely for operations within withdrawn areas 
because of the need for mining claim validity 
examinations before BLM would approve 
mining permits. 

New requirements for bonding constitute 
another administrative area that would increase 
costs for smaller Notice-level operations. 
Although new bonding requirements would 
affect all types of operations, those most 
affected would be small operations (e.g. 
exploration, placer, small open pit, and 
underground). These impacts would mainly be 
due to bonding amounts and the requirement 
that the bond instrument be filed with BLM. 

No longer allowing corporate guarantees to 
satisfy bond requirements would affect some 
larger operations. Current corporate guarantees 
would not be affected, but such guarantees 
would not be allowed in the future. The cost of 
bonding would increase for operations that use 
corporate guarantees. This impact would be 
concentrated in Nevada, where corporate 
guarantees are now allowed and many large 
mining companies are using them. 

Generally, the performance standards under 
the proposed regulations are expected to have a 
relatively larger impact on future large 



operations (i.e. greater than 5 acres) than the 
administrative-type provisions. Of the 
performance standards, the requirement to avoid 
substantial irreparable and unmitigatable harm 
to significant resources has the greatest 
potential for affecting mineral activities (both 
large and small). In some cases, this provision 
could preclude operations altogether. For 
example, if BLM determines that avoiding 
substantial irreparable harm would require 
complete backfilling of an open pit and the 
operator considers that requirement infeasible, 
the mine would not be developed. As a another 
example, if determining that a proposed 
operation would substantially, irreparably, and 
unmitigatably damage "significant" cultural 
resources, BLM would not approve the Plan of 
Operations. 

We assume that BLM would rarely deny a 
Plan of Operations or reject a Notice on the 
basis of the substantial irreparable harm 
provision for most resources. On the other 
hand, concerns about Native American religious 
and cultural issues may mean that the provision 
may be extensively applies as it relates to those 
concerns. Thus, there is great amount of 
uncertainty associated with the substantial 
irreparable harm standard. 

The performance standard for pit 
backfilling is another provision that could affect 
small and large open pit operations. But the 
presumption of backfilling has been dropped 
from the Proposed Action, so the likelihood of 
backfilling is lower than as analyzed in the draft 
EIS. With respect to Nevada, the proposed 
backfilling provision is similar to existing 
requirements in that state and is expected to 
have little effect. 

Other performance standards are also 
expected to affect operations, especially those 
addressing leaching operations, surface and 
ground water protection, and acid-forming-type 
materials. But these standards would not affect 
operations as much as would the standard for 
pit backfilling, if an operation were to be 
required to backfill. Standards for revegetation 
and protection and restoration of fish and 
wildlife habitat are expected to have their 



287 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



greatest impact on small exploration and placer 
projects. 

The value of mine production originating 
from public lands under the Proposed Action is 
estimated to decrease by 10% to 30%, or by 
$169 million to $484 million across the study 
area. This level of decreased production would 
cause the following decreases across the study 
area: 

• 2,100 to 6,050 jobs. 

• $305 million to $877 million in total industry 
output. 

• $138 million to $396 million in total personal 
income (of which $76 million to $218 million 
is employee compensation). 

• $157 million to $453 million in value-added. 

Table 3-38 shows the regional economic 
impacts by state and for the study area overall. 
For the study areas's total current value-added 
as measured by gross state product (GSP), this 
$157 million to $453 million would represent a 
2% to 6% decrease in GSP-related value in the 
metals and nonmetallic sectors. 

Most states would see decreased levels of 
mining on public lands, ranging from $101,000 
to $302,000 in Oregon to $117 million to $351 
million in Nevada. Nevada's share of the loss 
would be 70% of the loss for the study area as a 
whole. With the exception of the substantial 
irreparable harm standard, however, Nevada's 
existing regulations already incorporate most of 
the provisions of the Proposed Action. 

Further, the impacts in Nevada are based 
only on the portion of production coming from 
public lands. To the extent that the affected 
portion from public lands may affect a larger 
portion of production coming from non-BLM 
lands, the impacts to Nevada may be 
understated. 

A 10% to 30% overall decline in mineral 
production from current levels would result 
from a variety of responses by the mining 
industry. Some potential future operations 
would now be considered subeconomic and 
therefore would not be developed. Future 
operations might have shorter mine lives. Or 
current operations that might expand under 



these new regulations might close sooner than 
they otherwise would, holding constant other 
factors such as technology, commodity prices, 
and political and economic conditions for 
mining in other countries. A lower level of 
exploration due to more restrictions would also 
tend to decrease opportunities for future 
development, so some deposits would not even 
be found. 

Economic theory suggests that mines would 
cease production when operating costs exceed 
gross revenue. The effects on any particular 
firm are difficult to determine without detailed 
information about that firm's production costs, 
capital structure, and nature and extent of its 
activities. In the extreme case, however, some 
firms could decide to cease production, either 
permanently or until commodity prices rise 
enough to make production profitable. But 
existing operations would be "grandfathered" 
and would continue to operate under existing 
regulations. Regulations under the Proposed 
Action would apply only to future plans to 
expand existing operations, and most current 
operations would be unaffected. 

This analysis is based on (1) BLM's best 
estimates of potential overall reductions in the 
level of production of mineral commodities and 
(2) estimates of increased costs borne by firms. 
But aggregate levels of output might not 
change, given more efficient mining and 
reclamation techniques or other changes in 
market conditions. Total quantity produced 
could remain unchanged. Alternatively, the 
regulatory cost burden imposed by the proposed 
regulations could be overwhelmed by other 
market forces-such as commodity prices-that 
might play a relatively more important role in 
miners' production decisions. 

Further, BLM would not implement the 
regulations in a static environment. Both miners 
and BLM would probably become more 
efficient at complying with the regulations over 
time. In the long run the regulations might even 
create incentives for firms to seek new lower 
cost approaches to mining and reclamation. 
This is a reasonable assumption given the 
inclination most firms have to constantly seek 
least-cost technology and business practices. 



288 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



This assumption implies that the costs of the 
regulations could decline over time. 

Commodity prices would not be likely to 
change in response to a 10% to 30% decline in 
production because the prices for most mineral 
commodities are determined on world markets 
and individual production decisions do not 
affect prices. For commodities whose prices are 
not determined on world markets (such as some 
industrial minerals) prices are assumed to be 
established on local markets, and changes in 
public land production are assumed not to affect 
these prices. Further, impacts to industrial 
mining are expected to be lower (-5% to -10%) 
than impacts for the study area overall. 

Rural communities might or might not be 
affected, depending on a variety of factors: the 
current local level of activity; the degree of 
dependency or "specialization" a community 
may have in mining subject to proposed 
regulations; and the size of the community, its 
isolation, and other factors. Except possibly in 
Nevada, small rural communities in most states 
would lose only a small number of jobs and 
output relative to overall employment and 
output levels. And some or all of this decrease 
might be due to forgone future mining rather 
than current operations shutting down, or 
closing earlier than originally planned due to a 
reduction in economic reserves. In other words, 
the Proposed Action might not affect current 
mining in these communities, but in the future, 
new mines might not be developed. 

In Nevada, impacts to rural communities 
might be greater than in other states due to the 
greater estimated decrease in activity (1,050 to 
3,200 jobs and $181 to 543 million in industry 
output). But how any particular community in 
the state would be affected would depend on 
whether the impacts result from existing mines 
closing prematurely or potential operations not 
being developed. Any impacts at the community 
level would not likely occur in the short term 
while the proposed regulations are being 
implemented because mines with existing 
permits would not be affected unless they 
amend their Plans of Operations. 



Alternative 4: Maximum 
Protection 

Mineral production across the study area 
could decrease between 10% and 75% from 
current levels after full implementation of 
Alternative 4, depending on the mining method 
used. Open pit mining is expected to be affected 
most heavily (a decrease of 50% to 75%). 
Exploration is estimated to decrease by 20% to 
30%, placer mining by 15% to 30%, 
underground mining by 10% to 25%, and strip 
mining by 10% to 25%. 

Generally, the performance standards would 
have the greatest impact on the economy. They 
would most heavily affect open pit and large 
underground mines, which include most of the 
precious- and base-metal operations. Each 
performance standard would have the potential 
to significantly affect current and future 
operations, although not to the same degree. 
Mandatory pit backfilling, for example, would 
substantially increase costs for most open pit 
mines because most operations do not backfill 
or they backfill only partially. Provisions for 
surface and ground water protection, and for 
acid-producing processes would also 
substantially affect open pit and underground 
mines, making some proposed operations 
infeasible. 

For a variety of reasons the 
administrative provisions under Maximum 
Protection are expected to affect placer mining, 
small exploration, and small underground 
operations relatively more than would the 
performance standard provisions. The 
administrative provisions likely to cause the 
greatest effects are the following: 

• Eliminating Notice-level operations for 
disturbances of less than 5 acres during a 
calendar year. 

• Validity exams and economic feasibility 
analyses. 

• Bonding requirements. 

• The requirement that all existing operations 
comply with the provisions of this alternative 
(no "grandfather" provision). 



289 



N 
CO 

o 



Table 3-38. Alternative 3 (Proposed Action) Estimated Total Regional Economic Activity from Production of Locatable Minerals on 


Federal Lands ($000) 




State 


Value of Production 


Total Industry Output 


Personal Income 


Value Added 


Number of Jobs 












Total 


Employee 










Level of Impact 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 






Compensation 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Alaska 


$106,000 


$94,600 


$129,000 


$115,000 


$59,300 


$52,700 


$27,500 


$24,400 


$75,400 


$67,000 


870 


780 


Arizona 


44,900 


34,900 


36,500 


28,400 


18,500 


14,400 


11,000 


8,540 


21 ,700 


16,900 


290 


220 


California 


87,400 


72,800 


128,000 


107,000 


68,900 


57,400 


41 ,900 


34,900 


75,400 


62,900 


920 


770 


Colorado 


36,000 


28,000 


51 ,800 


40,300 


25,600 


19,900 


14,700 


11,400 


30,400 


23,700 


320 


250 


Idaho 


49,800 


44,300 


62,500 


55,500 


31,800 


28,200 


18,600 


16,600 


37,600 


33,400 


610 


540 


Montana 


41 ,300 


32,100 


55,500 


43,200 


747,000 


20,500 


16,400 


12,700 


33,800 


26,300 


370 


290 


Nevada 


1,050,000 


819,000 


1,630,000 


1,270,000 


10,800 


581,000 


420,000 


326,000 


817,000 


635,000 


9,670 


7,520 


New Mexico 


23,000 


1,710 


28,800 


22,400 


475 


8,400 


4,950 


3,850 


14,900 


11,600 


200 


150 


Oregon 


1,910 


49,200 


1,190 


1,060 


18,800 


425 


855 


765 


950 


850 


10 


9 


Utah 


63,300 


14,700 


44,300 


34,400 


11,300 


14,600 


9,990 


7,770 


23,100 


18,000 


320 


250 


Washington 


17,400 


4,460 


18,900 


15,900 


1,710 


9,520 


7,220 


6,080 


12,600 


10,600 


120 


100 


Wyoming 


4,980 


5,510 


3,330 


2,980 


1,800 


1,530 


855 


765 


2,380 


2,130 


30 


30 


Study-Area Total 


$1,530,000 


$1,210,000 


$2,770,000 


$2,200,000 


$1,250,000 


$994,000 


$690,000 


$548,000 


$1,430,000 


$1,140,000 


19,200 


15,240 


Estimated Change in Regional Economic Activity from Current Conditions ($000) 




State 


Value of F 


roduction 


Total Industry Output 


Personal Income 


Value Added 


Number of Jobs 












Total 


Employee 










Level of Impact 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 






Compensation 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Low 


High 


Alaska 


($11,800) 


($23,600) 


($14,400) 


($28,800) 


($6,950) 


($13,200) 


($3,050) 


($6,100) 


($8,380) 


($16,800) 


(100) 


(190) 


Arizona 


(5,000) 


(15,000) 


(4,060) 


(12,200) 


(2,050) 


(6,150) 


(1 ,220) 


(3,660) 


(2,410) 


(7,230) 


(30) 


(100) 


California 


(9,710) 


(24,300) 


(14,200) 


(35,600) 


(7,650) 


(19,100) 


(4,650) 


(11,600) 


(8,380) 


(21,000) 


(100) 


(260) 


Colorado 


(4,000) 


(12,000) 


(5,760) 


(17,300) 


(2,840) 


(8,520) 


(1,630) 


(4,890) 


(3,380) 


(10,100) 


(40) 


(110) 


Idaho 


(5,530) 


(11,100) 


(6,940) 


(13,900) 


(3,530) 


(7,060) 


(2,070) 


(4,140) 


(4,180) 


(8,360) 


(70) 


(140) 


Montana 


(4,590) 


(13,800) 


(6,170) 


(18,500) 


(2,930) 


(8,790) 


(1,820) 


(5,460) 


(3,760) 


(11,300) 


(40) 


(120) 


Nevada 


(117,000) 


(351 ,000) 


(181,000) 


(543,000) 


(83,000) 


(249,000) 


(46,600) 


(140,000) 


(90,800) 


(272,000) 


(1 ,070) 


(3,220) 


New Mexico 


(2,560) 


(7,670) 


(3,200) 


(9,600) 


(1,200) 


(3,600) 


(550) 


(1 ,650) 


(1,660) 


(4,980) 


(22) 


(70) 


Oregon 


(101) 


(302) 


(63) 


(188) 


(25) 


(75) 


(45) 


(135) 


(50) 


(150) 


(1) 


(2) 


Utah 


(7,040) 


(21,100) 


(4,920) 


(14,800) 


(2,090) 


(6,270) 


(1,110) 


(3,330) 


(2,570) 


(7,710) 


(40) 


(110) 


Washington 


(917) 


(3,670) 


(995) 


(3,990) 


(595) 


(2,380) 


(380) 


(1,520) 


(665) 


(2,660) 


(7) 


(30) 


Wvominq 


(262) 


(787) 


(175) 


(525) 


(90) 


(270) 


(45) 


(135) 


(125) 


(375) 


(2) 


(5) 


Study-Area Total 


($169,000) 


($484,000) 


($305,000) 


($877,000) 


($138,000) 


($396,000) 


($75,800) 


($218,000) 


($157,000) 


($453,000) 


(2,110) 


(6,070) 


Notes: Figures roi 


jnded to three s 


ignificant digits 


Employmen 


figures round 


3d to neares 


t 50, except 


figures under 25. Source: IMPLAN Input-Output Modeling System. 



Chapter ] - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



The requirement to submit Plans of 
Operations regardless of potential acreage 
disturbed would affect most current small 
operations and all potential future operations 
that would otherwise have filed Notices under 
the existing regulations. These operations would 
be required to give more information, would be 
subject to more agency and public involvement, 
and would have to obtain agency approval 
before proceeding. 

The requirement to conduct validity exams 
and economic feasibility analyses would affect 
all types of proposed operations except for 
exploration. This requirement would cause 
permitting delays and impose more analysis 
costs on both BLM and applicants. Bonding for 
unplanned events could also add substantial 
costs to some operations. 

The "no grandfathering" provision would 
potentially have a large effect on many existing 
operations, mainly large metal mines. But the 
provision also allows for some exceptions for 
technical, environmental, safety, or economic 
reasons. 

Also, the provision for Native American 
concurrence on Plan approval would affect all 
operations in cases where Native American 
traditional cultural values may be impacted. 

The performance standards are expected to 
affect open pit mining and large exploration and 
large underground operations relatively more 
than would the administrative provisions. 
Although all performance standards are 
expected to affect operations, probably the 
greatest relative impact would be due to 
mandatory pit backfilling, water treatment 
provisions, and unsuitability criteria for certain 
mineral deposits. 

Overall, under Alternative 4, the value of 
mine production of locatable minerals would 
decrease by from 46% to 69%, or $773 million 
to $1.2 billion across the study area. This level 
of decreased production would cause the 
following decreases: 

• 9,700 to 14,600 jobs. 

• $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion in total industry 
output 



• $633 million to $955 million in total personal 
income (of which $349 million to $526 
million is employee compensation). 

• $723 million to $1.1 billion in value-added. 

Table 3-39 shows the regional economic 
impacts by state and for the study area overall. 
For the study areas's total current value-added 
as measured by gross state product (GSP), this 
$723 million to $1.1 billion would represent a 
10% to 14% decrease in GSP-related value in 
the metals and nonmetallic sectors. 

All states would face decreased levels of 
activity on public lands, but to differing degrees 
depending on the mining method most prevalent 
in the state. Open pit mining would be more 
significantly affected than other types of 
mining. And states where open pit mining 
dominates on public lands would be relatively 
more affected. Of the total value of production 
from federal land, gold makes up 85% ($1.4 
billion in gold production out of $1.7 billion for 
all minerals). And most of this gold production 
comes from open pit mining-the mining method 
most heavily affected by Maximum Protection. 
Most of this gold production, and open pit 
mining in general, is concentrated in just a few 
states. 

Although most states have open pit mines, 
six states are likely to be most affected: 
Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New 
Mexico, and Utah. In these states, production 
levels are estimated to decline by 50% to 75% 
from current levels. This decline represents the 
following loss in production value: 

• $24.9 million to $37.4 million for Arizona. 

• $20 million to $30 million for Colorado. 

• $22.9 million to 34.4 million for Montana. 

• $585 million to $877 million for Nevada. 

• $12.8 million to $19.2 million for New 
Mexico. 

• $35.2 million to $52.8 million for Utah. 

The other states would be affected to lesser 
but varying degrees, by percentage change in 
value of production. In Alaska, most current 
production from BLM-administered lands 



291 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



comes from placer mining, which would 
decrease from current levels by 20% to 30%, or 
$23.6 million to $35.5 million, Production in 
California would decrease by 30% to 50% 
($29.1 million to $48.5 million) due to a greater 
level of industrial mineral production relative to 
open pit production. 

Industrial minerals production mainly uses 
strip mining methods, which would be subject 
to fewer restrictions than open pit methods. In 
Idaho, production would decrease by 25% to 
40% overall, or by $13.8 million to $22.1 
million. This amount reflects Idaho's mix of 
open pit and underground operations. Idaho 
tends to have a greater proportion of 
underground mines than the study area overall, 
and underground mines would be less affected 
than would open pit mines. 

In Oregon and Wyoming most production 
involves industrial minerals. The estimated 
decrease in production for both states is 10% to 
20% ($201,000 to $402,000 in Oregon and 
$524,000 to $1 million in Wyoming). In 
Washington production would decrease by 25% 
to 40% ($4.6 million to $7.3 million), given its 
mix of open pit metals operations and industrial 
mineral mines, which are more apt to use strip 
methods. Impacts in Table 3-39 reflect these 
differences. 

Nevada, with its concentration of open pit 
gold mines, would face the greatest reduction in 
activity, a $585 million to $877 million 
decrease in production value. This decrease 
would create a $904 to $1.4 billion decrease in 
industry output and a loss of 5,370 to 8,060 
jobs. 

Across the study area, an overall decline of 
10% to 75% in mineral production, depending 
on mining methods, would result from a variety 
of responses by the mining industry. Because of 
the "no grandfather" provision, many current 
operations might close down if they could not 
comply with the provisions of the Maximum 
Protection Alternative. But this provision does 
allow some exceptions for technical, 
environmental, safety, or economic reasons. 

Some potential future operations would 
then be considered subeconomic and would not 
be developed. Future operations might have 



shorter mine lives. Or current operations that 
might expand under these new regulations 
might close sooner, holding constant other 
factors (e.g. technology, commodity prices, and 
political and economic conditions for mining in 
other countries). 

The level of decrease in activity assumed 
under Alternative 4 would also likely cause 
decreased exploration in the study area for two 
reasons. First, exploration would be directly 
affected by the provisions of this alternative. All 
exploration projects would be required to file 
Plans of Operations and meet the provisions of 
the performance standards. These provisions 
could substantially increase exploration costs 
and thus decrease activity. Second, and possibly 
more important, the expected decrease in 
mining due to more restrictive performance and 
design standards would decrease the desirability 
of exploring for new or expanded deposits in 
the study area. Consequently, exploration on 
non-BLM-administered lands or foreign 
countries might become relatively more 
attractive. 

Rural communities where locatable 
minerals are now being mined could also be 
substantially affected. Because existing 
operations would not be grandfathered, many of 
these operations could incur significant costs to 
comply with this alternative's provisions. 
Where operations could absorb these costs, 
mines lives might be shortened if portions of 
the ore deposit become uneconomic and higher 
graded deposits could not be found. Other 
operations could not absorb these costs and 
would shut down completely. 

The extent to which communities would be 
affected would depend on a variety of factors: 
the level of local current activity; the 
community's dependence on mining subject to 
3809 regulations; whether existing operations 
could meet the more restrictive requirements; 
and the size of the community, its isolation, and 
other factors. In small, isolated communities 
with a high degree of specialization in mining, 
the impact of a mine shutting down would be 
significant. Larger communities with a lesser 
degree of specialization in mining would be less 
affected. Nevada communities would have the 



292 



Chapter I - Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences 



greatest potential for significant impact given 
the high degree of specialization in metal 
mining-the type of mining likely to be affected 
most. 

The extent to which commodity prices 
might be affected under Maximum Protection is 
unknown. Gold production is likely to be most 
heavily affected because most gold production 
on public lands comes from open pit mines. An 
estimated 40% of all domestic gold production 
comes from federal land (including land 
managed by agencies other than BLM), with a 
estimated value of $1 .44 billion (see Table 3- 
31). A 50% to 75% decrease of this 40% means 
that total domestic production would decrease 
by 20% to 30%. A 20% to 30% decline in 
domestic production would translate to a 3% to 
4.5% decrease in worldwide production at 
current worldwide production levels. Given 
recent projections for the rate of growth in 
production worldwide (1.3% to 3% per year), a 
3% to 4.5% decline falls just above this range 
of variability. 

A supply decline of this magnitude could 
create a short-term increase in the price of gold, 
holding other factors affecting price constant 
(such as changes in production technology and 
worldwide demand) until more production 
could come online to offset the decline in U.S. 
production. 

Prices for other commodities are not likely 
to be affected for a two reasons: (1) A lower 
proportion of total domestic production comes 
from BLM-administered land for most of these 
minerals, and (2) these minerals use a wide 
variety of mining methods and rely less on open 
pit methods for extraction. 

Alternative 5 

After full implementation of Alternative 5, 
mineral activity in the study area could decrease 
up to 10% from current levels, assuming current 
trends in mining continue for the foreseeable 
future. The degree of impact would vary by 
state, depending mainly on the dominant types 
of mining and/or commodities mined in each 
state. In some states, there may be no impact. 
For example, in states with relatively more 



metal mining and where larger operations are 
concentrated (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, 
Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah), the 
estimated decrease in value of production would 
be to -5%. For those states with relatively 
more small operations (Alaska, California, 
Washington, and Wyoming), the impacts would 
be greater, an estimated decrease of -5% to - 
10%. 

For small mining operations (i.e. less than 5